NewsLocal News


Officials scaling back water testing near Montana derailment site after no harm found

2023 07-04 asphalt material removal.jpg
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-06 11:50:16-04

Officials cleaning up the massive train derailment near Reed Point said Wednesday they will scale back daily testing after seeing no damage to water quality 11 days after the incident.

“This is good news, we have not seen any impacts to water quality,” said Chad Anderson, on-scene coordinator for the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, in a written statement. “We are able to place our focus on cleanup and recovery.”

Officials had been testing daily at more than 10 sites both downstream and upstream of the June 24 derailment of a Montana Rail Link train over the Twin Bridges railroad bridge, spilling asphalt, molten sulfur and scrap metal into the Yellowstone River. They said in their Wednesday release that they've seen no detectable levels of petroleum hydrocarbons, and sulfur levels downstream remain consistent with upstream sampling locations.

The news release was from a joint unified command, which consists of the Environmental Protection Agency, Montana DEQ, Stillwater County emergency management and Montana Rail Link.

In addition, officials confirmed that the Oiled Wildlife Care Network found a second animal dead from the asphalt spill into the river, a garter snake. A bird was found dead over the weekendafter it became stuck in gooey asphalt spilled from the train.

And now there's a new mission for the unified command: Reconstructing the bridge that collapsed to get trains moving again. All 17 rail cars that derailed have been removed from the site, including the 10 that went into the river. Additional equipment is coming to the site to rebuild the bridge, according to unified command.

Crews have cleared 12,000 pounds of material downstream, and officials say the assessment area of the spill extends 240 miles downstream.

A public drop-off location is stationed at Holmgren’s fishing access for members of the public who've retrieved material on their own. Officials say people should use gloves when collecting material.

To report observed asphalt material, submit information to:

Anyone with information about oiled wildlife are encouraged to call the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) Response Hotline at 888-ASK-OWCN (888-275-6926).

Unified command will hold a second public meeting Thursday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbus High School Gym and via Zoom. For more information and details please visit: [].