Workers dig up pipeline that spilled oil into Yellowstone River

Bridger Pipeline LLC is digging up a pipeline that breached over the weekend and spilled crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana, a federal agency said on Tuesday.

The pipeline operator was unearthing the pipeline so the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration can investigate the spill, PHMSA spokesman Damon Hill said. Environmental response agencies said they had no timeline for completing an investigation and restarting the line.

The 42,000 barrel-per-day Poplar pipeline system gathers crude from producers in eastern Montana and North Dakota.

Bridger needs PHMSA’s approval to restart the pipeline, and Hill said he didn’t know how long that would take. The agency also dispatched inspectors to the site of the incident and the company’s control center in Wyoming to aid in the investigation.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a coordinated response over the weekend that included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality and the state’s Disaster and Emergency Services are part of the command, as are the City of Glendive and Dawson County.

“It’s far too early to tell how long our response activity might take,” EPA spokesman Rich Mylott said.

Bridger spokesman Bill Salvin estimated the spill to be around 1,200 barrels of crude, which was the higher end of an earlier estimate released by the company.

Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality reported Tuesday that early water testing revealed abnormally high levels of volatile organic compounds. The Benzene was probably causing the water’s “adverse odor,” the statement said.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control, who tested the sample, said they “do not see that domestic use of this water poses a short-term public health hazard,” according to the statement.

The leak in the line serving producers helped narrow Bakken crude’s differential to the West Texas Intermediate benchmark price on Monday, which shrunk to $5.40 per barrel from Friday’s settlement price of $5.80 under WTI, according to Shorcan Energy Brokers.

“This is a significant spill, and the coordination of various response activities at the spill site, the city of Glendive, and at downstream locations will be a priority over the next several days,” Mylott said.

Additional reporting by Scott Haggett and Nia Williams in Calgary and Ashutosh Pandey in Bengaluru.

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