Posted: Oct 17, 2011 2:49 PM by Paul Humphrey - Q2 News
Updated: Oct 17, 2011 2:56 PM
BILLINGS - Cleanup of the oil spill caused by the rupture of ExxonMobil's Silvertip Pipeline will soon be concluded as the effort moves to the reclamation phase of the project.
Yellowstone County Commissioners hosted a briefing Monday on the progress of the cleanup of the Silvertip Pipeline which burst on July 1, dumping up to 40,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River.
Representatives of ExxonMobil, Montana D.E.Q., E.P.A., and Fish Wildlife and Parks gave recaps of the cleanup efforts. Their message to county and city elected officials was that the bulk of the cleanup is done. ExxonMobil Pipeline Company President, Jimmy James, said that in the next two weeks he hopes to move into the remediation, reclamation, and long-term monitoring phase of the process. During the reclamation phase the number of Exxon employees on the ground would be reduced to less than 100 down significantly from over 1000 at the height of the cleanup.
During the meeting there were questions about the removal of the ruptured pipeline. ExxonMobil has acquired the proper state permits to remove the pipe but has yet to pull the pipeline from the river. James said that Exxon is working with the Montana Department of Transportation on the removal of the line but did not give a timeline for its removal.
After the update on the cleanup the group discussed the lessons learned from the pipeline disaster and how contingency plans for future disasters can be developed and implemented.
"You have to have a contingency plan. We are already in the process of looking at our plan especially here in the Yellowstone River valley," said Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy. "I think we are miles ahead right now just going through the spill this summer. I think we will be able to build on our experiences and have the plan in place."
While the cleanup draws to a close the legal battle over the spill is just beginning. Earlier this month a group of landowners filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil for damages to their land.