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Oil cleanup goes on. And on and on…

Almost a month later, Exxon has finished cleanup at 4 of the 46 (and growing) oil-impacted sites on the Yellowstone River. Meanwhile, EPA and the state of Montana have increased the original estimate of spilled oil from 1,000 barrels to at least 1,200 barrels. Those extra 200 barrels however are a lot more than Exxon has taken back from the river so far. Exxon now admits to oil being found as far as seventy miles downstream. With about 600 people on site cleaning the Yellowstone, EPA also says that Exxon needs more people cleaning up the more than 50,000 gallons of goo.

Not to worry though, the experts say that it will all go away on its own with time.

“Generally, petroleum breaks down, attenuates is what we call it, but that doesn’t happen overnight, I’m not going to lie to you,” said Mary Ann Dunwell, of the state Department of Environmental Quality’s Remediation Division.

Well no, not exactly “overnight”. About a year after the million-gallon spill of crude from an Enbridge pipeline into the Kalamazoo River in  Michigan officials are reporting that,

…last week officials admitted that they were “surprised” at how large of a footprint of contamination the spill caused. Officials say as many as 200 acres of river bottom is contaminated with thick, tar-like deposits of the oil. Some of that has been discovered at Morrow Lake, the point where environmental officials thought they had contained the contamination.

The pipeline company received 2,392 claims for health-related problems and 99 of those are still open. The county health officer was quoted, “I guess I was a little naïve thinking that this would all just be taken care of very rapidly within the summer months,” [James] Rutherford said. “I never imagined that we would be going into year two with this, with still having 600 people working on it on a day-to-day basis.”

As our little problem  on the Yellowstone continues to fester, Enbridge pipeline company in Alberta reports the release of about 55,000 gallons of crude into a creek. One Alberta official said, “At this point, we don’t know what happened,” he said. “We’re working with the company right now on pure containment and mitigation and cleanup measures.”. Enbridge is still cleaning on a spill in the Northwest Territories. And,

The board also is following cleanup efforts at the Plains Midstream-operated Rainbow pipeline spill which released 28,000 barrels of oil onto sensitive muskeg and into a pond near Little Buffalo in northern Alberta in late April.


In July 2008, a Pembina pipeline rupture resulted in the spilling of up to 200 barrels of sweet crude into the Red Deer River and into the popular recreational site of Gleniffer Lake.

Even if our problem were to “break down over time” and miraculously go away, we don’t seem to be keeping ahead of all the oil that pipeline companies keep dumping our into our waterways, groundwater and environment.

“Related to these pipeline incidents generally, I think that we are in a situation where we can’t say it’s a trend, we can’t say there is something wrong, it’s just an unfortunate series of circumstances,” Darin Barter of the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board  said.

“They all claim to undertake these extensive maintenance programs and do the proper erosion testing and visual digs and whatnot,” he said. “But they are 50-year-old pipelines which have been experiencing some leaks over the last couple of years.”

Don’t take it too hard though, the oil companies will come through this okay: “The spill likely will be immaterial to Pembina’s bottom line and have no short-term impact on producers as they are able to truck out, noted analyst Pat Kenny, with National Bank Financial.” Whew!


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