Yellowstone spill tally: Oil on about 60% of shoreline

By Gazetle Staff and Associated Press I Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 1:00 pm

The four sites cleaned up last week by ExxonMobil on the Yellowstone River after its pipe burst a month ago have yet to be cleared by the Environmental Protection Agency

EPA officials said the sites are ready for inspection, but they'll have to wait The spill's assessment crews -known as

Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique teams Of' SCAT teams -are still busy surveying spill damage downriver

The four sites "have not had are-SeA T completed as the SeAT teams continue to work downstream before circling back to completed subsegments," said Craig Myers, EPA's on-scene coordinator for the spill,

Once the teams finish assignments downriver, they'll be free to check on the areas declared clean by Exxon cleanup crews.

The teams have found contamination along roughly 60 percent of shoreline areas inspected downstream flom the pipeline break, Montana's chief environmental regulator said,

The tally released Tuesday by Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Richard Opper offers one the first clear gauges of the scope of the spill after weeks of high water slowed access to fouled areas,

A little more than 40 percent of shoreline inspected to date had light to very light oiL Seventeen percent had moderate oiL

Just 1 percent was heavily contaminated,

The state says the July 1 spill, which came amid flooding from mountain snowmelt, dumped up to 1,200 barrels of oil, or 54,000 gallons, into the Yellowstone near Laurel ExxonMobii says it lost 1,000 barrels

The investigation into what caused the pipeline to break could take months, Meanwhile, more than 800 cleanup workers and support personnel are involved in mopping up the spill

Opper said teams of federal, state and ExxonMobii workers have now inspected about half of the riverbank and islands between Laurel and Lockwood, where most of the damage occurred,

"That is the area of the greatest impact we're looking at, and so it gives you an idea of the degree of impact we're

seeing,"Opper said" "I'm glad it wasn't worse, But it's still a huge problem for landowners, both private and public, and we'll

do what we can to address this as efficiently as we can"

ExxonMobil last week finished initial work on the first four of dozens of clean up sites scattered along the riverbank and stretching across fields that were flooding when the pipeline broke

The Environmental Protection Agency set an early September deadline for ExxonMobil to finish the cleanup, but agency officials have said that's not a hard date and the company will continue working as long as it takes for the job to meet

Montana's stringent cleanup standards,

State officials said they checked a site where oil was reported 240 miles downstream near the town of Terry and no oil was

found. Discoloration in the water apparently was caused by a side stream entering the river.

The EPA has said the farthest downstream that oil has been confirmed was near Custer, 72 miles from the spill site in Laurel.