Oil spill work continues while frustration mounts on slow sample testing

By ROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 20115:44 pm

The number of workers on the oil spill site along the Yellowstone River has now ballooned to 890. Cleanup work from the July I spill-when an ExxonMobii pipeline burst underneath the Yellowstone and dumped an estimated 1,200 barrels of oil into the river -is now in its fourth full week and crews are seeing progress.

With water levels lower, Exxon has been able to get crews to the islands within the river's main channel for cleaning. "We're trying to hit that sweet spot," said Steve Merritt, EPA's on~scene coordinator.

The air assault on the spill has gotten aggressive, he said. More and more, aircraft has been used to pull soiled debris from the river and drop equipment into the affected areas.

In all, 78 percent of both Divisions A and B -the stretch of river from the spill in Laurel to Lockwood -havc been surveyed by crews. The 92-mile stretch from Lockwood to the Yellowstone County line is being surveyed.

Each division is broken down into sites identified for cleanup. So far, Exxon has finished the initial cleanup work on four of those sites in Division A.

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency now have the task of going into these sites to check Exxon's work. Merritt said at least one of the four sites is ready for inspection.