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Yellowstone River cleanup of asphalt from train derailment halts until next summer

Asphalt material observed at river mile 128.jpg
Posted at 8:12 PM, Aug 16, 2023

Workers are finishing up cleanup of debris spilled into the Yellowstone River following a June derailment near Reed Point, but officials said Wednesday they will continue to accept tips to remove more asphalt material.

The teams reached an end point of the cleanup about 136 miles downstream from the derailment, just below the confluence with the Bighorn River, according to a news release from the unified command, which is handling the cleanup.

The unified command consists of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Rail Link and Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services.

Cleanup efforts were slated to wind down when workers found three or fewer "actionable asphalt areas" within a 10-mile stretch of the river, according to the news release.

In the final 10 miles of the cleanup, workers have only identified one of those areas, according to the news release.

In addition, low water levels forced workers to scale down river operations. The cleanup will resume next summer.

A local cleanup task force will remain in the area to respond to reports of asphalt. Send an email to rpderailment@mtrail.comif you see asphalt in the river.

Teams have collected approximately 231,700 pounds of asphalt material. An estimated total of 419,442 pounds of material entered the river following the derailment.

As of Aug. 15, eight snakes and eleven birds died after encountering the asphalt material; one snake encountered the material and was released back into the environment for 20 total confirmed animals impacted by the material.

On June 24, a Montana Rail Link train derailed into the river when the Twin Bridges rail bridge collapsed. Authorities are still investigating what caused the incident. Ten cars went into water, including six that contained asphalt. Three cars contained molten sulphur, and one contained scrap metal.

Related:

Train derails into Yellowstone River in Stillwater County
Train derailment raises questions about Montana railway safety
Officials: Final rail car removed from Yellowstone River at derailment site