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Walleyes Forever - Local News

Is Oil Spill Cleanup Done?

What's next for the Yellowstone River and the Exxon pipeline oil spill?

Billings -

It has been three months since the spill in the River and things are winding down as areas are cleaned and completed. The reality that things will be going on for sometime but in a more low key operation. The cleanup crews from Exxon were 400 fold early in the spill but by the end of this month the crew may be down to 100. Other crews will drop from 30 to a dozen.

That doesn't mean they are done with their work at the site. FWP is doing fish retesting right now and next week hopes to do some shocking to gather more data. Originally, Bob Gibson, Fish Wildlife information officer says, "Right after the spill we found small amounts of oil in the fatty tissue of the fish so now we need to see if their are differences. We need to check the accummulative effects." Gibson says that the intermittent testing will continue for a long time to come.

The Exxon crews that are still working on the river are working on "exceptions" which used to be called "wildlife exceptions". The name has changed because the urgency for wildlife is not as urgent. The exceptions job is to observe areas that still have oil in them but for some reason it could not be disturbed. There is an area East of Laurel where debrie piles prevented some cleanup to be done. Those areas will be checked and rechecked to see if there is a change in the oil. If something has changed they will note it and correct what they can. Sometimes the amount is too little to move or cleanup and so they evaluate its absorption. When the ara is clear it will be taken off the exceptions list.

There are still areas of private property where the landowners refused to let the cleanup team on their property before they contacted an attorney. Those areas were documnted by their attorney and the payment for cleanup was determined and paid and now the crew can go in and do the job. The feeling is that these properties will be done soon.

But the job does not end there. Next the reclamation starts. Crews will work to remove footprints, tire tracks and andy disturbances made by the cleanup crews. They will try to leave the staging areas as undisturbed as possible. They will repair fences they had to cut to get to an area. Their hope is to leave it as close to what it was before the spill.

When the snow comes and melts they will again check areas to make sure the area is really reclained. And so the cleanup continues.

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