by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
The break occurred, according to Bridger Pipeline, LLC, at 10a.m. The company shut down the pipeline at 11am.
It is in the first hour after a break the most toxic materials escape. This includes Benzene, a carcinogen which may cause cancer. Bridger announced only 300 – 1,200 oil barrels had been spilled into the riber. State estimates the spill as 50,000 US gallons of spilled oil. Benzene was ten to fifteen parts per billion. An EPA official commented that, "anything above five parts per billion is considered a long-term risk."
It was two days later, January 19th, that 6,000 people from the nearby town of Glendive were told not to use the town's municipal waterdue to the elevated levels of benzene which had percolated through the Yellowstone River and into their tap water. The city supplied bottled water to residents for four days, declaring the municipal water safe on January 23.
Paul Peronard, an employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told residents to open their taps and run the water to flush out residual contamination. Peronard also said, “If it doesn’t smell anymore you have cleaned it out, you’re good. Citizens can start drinking it...”
The level at which Benezene is known to be dangerous is five parts per billion. Most people can smell Benzene at levels of 60,000 parts per billion.
Following Peronard's advice Glendive resident Roseann Koepke ran the taps in her trailer home Thursday after her landlord told her the contamination had been cleared. She turned off the water after the strong smell of oil gave her a headache. Unaware of the facts about Benzene Koepke said, “I ran it for about ten minutes and had to open up the door for five minutes to get the smell out,” she said. “My God, did I end up getting a headache.”
Ms. Koepke said she would try again.
In no instance has an oil company monitored the outpouring of deadly gases in the first hour. Under estimating the size of the spill, failing to provide medical services to impacted residents, or even pay for their drinking water is also standard operating procedure for oil companies as is neglecting to provide Hazmat protection for workers. Get the picture?