Region 8

Bridger Pipeline Release

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Introduction

On Sunday, January 18, 2015, a response team from Bridger Pipeline, LLC reported evidence of a crude oil discharge from the company’s Poplar Pipeline to the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana. The section of pipeline where the release occurred crosses the river between two valves at a location approximately seven river miles upstream of the city of Glendive in Dawson County.

EPA deployed an on-scene coordinator to the spill location on January 18 and continues to coordinate environmental assessment and response activities with local officials, the State of Montana, and Bridger Pipeline. Response teams are currently focused on identifying and recovering oil at the spill site and at downstream locations. In addition, sampling results collected on Monday, January 19 indicated the presence of hydrocarbons in the city of Glendive’s drinking water system. As a precaution, the City issued an advisory recommending users served by the system to not drink the water. EPA, state, and local officials are currently taking steps to flush the system and restore the delivery of safe drinking water.

The quantity of crude oil released from the pipeline was initially estimated at between 300 and 1,200 barrels of oil. Subsequent investigation indicates the spill is in the higher end of that range. Long-term cleanup activity will focus on identifying and collecting oil in the river, which has been challenging due to extensive ice cover in the river at and below the spill location.

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Response Updates

  • January 21

    Drinking Water Decontamination and Supply Operations:

    • A water consumption advisory remains in effect for water customers served by the Glendive Water Treatment Plant. This advisory is precautionary in nature and will remain in place until drinking water is rigorously tested and is determine to meet Safe Drinking Water Act standards.
    • Seventy pallets of water were delivered to Glendive on January 20, and are available at various pickup locations for residents.
    • EPA's Mobile Analytical Laboratory is now operating in Glendive, Montana. The lab will be used to provide rapid analysis of water samples during the assessment and flushing of the distribution system and for preliminary clearance sampling.
    • Additional samples will be sent to a certified laboratory in Billings, Montana.
    • EPA contractors are performing drinking water system sampling at taps and hydrants throughout Glendive.
    • The Glendive Water Treatment Plant has modified its raw water intake to add charcoal and absorb dissolved organic chemicals using granular activated carbon filters.
    • Samples taken at a water intake downstream (not currently in use) at Sidney, Montana showed no contamination.

    Pipeline Operations:

    • Approximately 240 barrels of crude oil were recovered and inventoried from the pipeline between the block valves at the Yellowstone River crossing.
    • A diagnostic tool was used to push the remaining crude oil to one end of the pipeline, where it was removed with vacuum trucks and stored in tanks.
    • The leak site was found roughly 50 feet from the south bank of the Yellowstone River. The location was found by pressuring the pipeline with nitrogen causing bubbles to surface in the breached area.
    • The pipeline has been tapped and flanged on each end to minimize any additional leakage from the remaining pipe.
    • The plan is to abandon this line and directionally drill a replacement pipeline crossing going forward, under the direction/oversight of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

    Oil Spill Containment and Recovery Operations:

    • Crews continue ice slotting operations in the river to help identify and recover oil between the spill site and Glendive, Montana.
    • Reconnaissance crews are working to identify and access pockets of trapped oil beneath the ice on the river in this same segment.
    • Crews are maintaining a final containment recovery site approximately 30-40 miles downstream near Crane, Montana. This site is intended as a last line of containment downstream of the spill. It consists of a series of ice slots that crews are working to keep open and maintain to prevent any downstream contamination.
  • January 22

    Drinking Water Decontamination and Supply Operations:

    • The Glendive Water Treatment Plant is operational and is drawing water from the Yellowstone River to maintain reservoir levels for emergency firefighting uses and to prevent any loss in distribution system pressure.
    • The raw water that is being drawn into the plant is being aerated and subjected to supplementary treatment with charcoal and activated carbon filtration to remove any dissolved or emulsified hydrocarbons.
    • Preliminary analysis of treated water samples from the Glendive Water Treatment Plant indicate that decontamination efforts have been effective and concentrations of all previously detected contaminants have decreased to safe levels, including benzene.
    • Flushing operations were conducted throughout the water distribution system using hydrants and other large-diameter taps.
    • Multiple samples were collected from fire hydrants following the flushing operations in each area of the distribution system.
    • Samples were analyzed locally by the EPA Region 8 Mobile Analytical Laboratory and splits of the same samples were submitted to Energy Laboratories in Billings, Montana for confirmation. Bacterial screening samples were also collected to ensure compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulations.
    • A public meeting will be held at 1900 this evening at Glendive High School, followed by a media availability session to discuss the operational status of the drinking water system. Guidance will be issued to the community about flushing all municipal system users' systems with the treated water now in the distribution system. Residents will be asked to wait until bacterial sample results (BacT) are received before they drink the water.
    • Once samples are received that confirm preliminary results that the system meets or is below the standards of the Safe Drinking Water Act regulations, the Glendive Water Treatment Plant will be issued a certification to operate and the consumption advisory will be lifted.

    Pipeline Operations:

    • Bridger ran a second diagnostic tool through the pipeline in an effort to free the first one that became stuck in the area of the rupture area. During these operations, an additional 6 barrels of crude oil was recovered from the pipeline, further reducing the estimated volume of the discharge to approximately 954 barrels.
    • The remaining fluids in the pipeline will now be recovered by inserting a smaller poly pipe into the other end. This will allow the fluids to be measured to get a better estimate on the volume of crude oil spilled.
    • The segment of pipeline between the two block valves and crossing the Yellowstone River will be isolated and capped today by crews from Bridger Pipeline.

    Oil Spill Containment and Recovery Operations:

    • Crews have completed ice slotting operations in the river at a location 3.3 miles downstream of the spill site and upstream of Glendive, Montana and the drinking water intake.
    • This recovery point will be used to capture and collect oil released from the most contaminated areas of the river before it can migrate further downstream. The success of these operations will determine how recovery efforts proceed in the short term; it may be necessary to redeploy when the spring melt begins.
    • Recovery rates at this point will also be used to assess the degree of oiled ice, determine the potential for oil removal, and weigh other possible options for removing the threat of discharge from residual oil near the source.
    • Crews are also working to maintain the ice slotting containment structure, referred to as the “backstop,” which is approximately 35 miles downstream near Crane, Montana.
    • Reconnaissance crews continue flyovers to spot and characterize sheen in open water areas, and to identify and locate ways to access pockets of trapped oil beneath the ice on the river between the spill site and the backstop near Crane, Montana.
    • Crews are working to evaluate the use of absorbent sweeps in the open water where sheen is visible, but this has not been effective to date.
    • Four USCG Pacific Strike Team Members are on-site and advising the Federal OSC on field operations and safety.
    • OSHA visited the site on 1/21/2015 to assess responder safety and provide support to the spill clean-up actions.
    • EPA is investigating a reported contaminate at the City of Williston, North Dakota at their drinking water intake that may be related to the Bridger Pipeline release. The level is well below the SDWA standards.

    Environmental Clean-Up Operations:

    • Air monitoring and sampling is being conducted at all operational locations, in critical facilities, and around the community.
    • Sampling and Analysis Plans are being developed for characterizing the extent of environmental impacts, including surface water quality and soil/sediment impacts.
    • The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MT FWP) have conducted a survey of the pallid sturgeon, an endangered species, in the Yellowstone River downstream of the spill site. MT FWP then issued a press release calling for a fish consumption advisory for the Yellowstone River between the spill site just upstream from Glendive and the North Dakota state line.
    • No wildlife impacts have been observed/reported to this point.
  • January 23

    Drinking Water System Operations:

    • The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has announced that the Glendive Water Treatment Plant is now providing drinking water that meets the Federal Safe Drinking Water Standards to all municipal water users. The "do not drink" advisory has been lifted. Water samples that were concurrently analyzed by the EPA Region 8 Mobile Analytical Laboratory and Energy Laboratories in Billings, Montana, confirmed compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards, including bacterial (BacT) screening samples.
    • Samples from the river water intake on Jan. 23rd show volatile organic compound (VOC) levels to be well below instrument detection limits.
    • A public meeting was held at 1900 on January 23, 2015, at Dawson County High School, followed by a media availability session to discuss the operational status of the drinking water system. The Unified Command issued guidance to the community on flushing all municipal users' pipes with the treated water now in the distribution system. Residents were asked to wait until the BacT sampling data was received before they drink the water.
    • Bottled drinking water will still be available to the community of Glendive through 1600 on Jan. 23.
    • An EPA team is coordinating with ND DOH in Williston, North Dakota, today to incorporate previously collected sampling data and confirm transport of them to the EPA Region 8 Mobile Analytical Laboratory and a lab in Bismark, North Dakota.
    • Four water samples were collected at the Williston, North Dakota, drinking water intake, and all were below the SDWA Maximum Containment Levels (MCLs).
    • EPA and ND DOH are supporting intake sampling at the Four Bears Water Treatment Plant in New Town, North Dakota, on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Initial results indicate that the VOC concentrations are all well below MCLs. Regular water sampling will continue to monitor for any elevated VOC concentrations

    Pipeline and oil spill containment and recovery operations:

    • The segment of pipeline crossing the Yellowstone River between the two block valves has been isolated and capped, and is being monitored by crews from Bridger.
    • SWAT Consulting, Inc. from Alberta, Canada, was brought in to share their expertise in cold water oil spill containment and recovery. The team is considered to be a leaders in its field.
    • Crews working on oil recovery at the ice slot in the river at a milepost 3.3 miles downstream of the spill site have recovered no oil.  Because of ice breaking as a result of warm weather, no ice slot will be established at milepost 6.1. Short term recovery efforts will be disrupted by the weather.  It may be necessary to redeploy when the spring melt begins.
  • January 26

    Glendive, Montana

    • Currently, water drawn into the plant from the river is subjected to supplementary treatment with charcoal and activated carbon filtration to remove any dissolved or emulsified hydrocarbons. Samples from the river water intake on Jan. 24 and 25 show volatile organic compound (VOC) levels to be well below detection limits.
    • Water samples that were concurrently analyzed by the EPA Region 8 Mobile Analytical Laboratory and Energy Laboratories in Billings, Montana, confirmed compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) standards, including bacterial (BacT) screening samples.
    • The Glendive Water Treatment Plant is operational and providing drinking water to all municipal water users. The "do not drink" advisory was lifted on Friday, Jan. 23.
    • Some residents reported a dark brown to black material coming out of taps at or near the end of the flushing process. EPA evaluated several of these incidents and determined the material is not related to the spill.  It is naturally occurring sediment that built up when the water system was shut down.
    • City officials have confirmed that this sediment is produced each year when the fire hydrants are flushed. 
    • Bottled drinking water distribution ended on Jan. 23.

    Williston, North Dakota

    • EPA coordinated with the ND DOH and collected samples at the Williston Water Treatment Plant.  All samples were analyzed and found to be well below the MCL for benzene.

    Pipeline Operations:

    • The response teams have finished removing oil from the pipeline and have cut and capped the ends of the damaged line.
    • Responders recovered a significant amount of oil from the pipeline over Jan. 23 and 24.  A final tally of the total oil recovered from the pipeline is still being calculated.
    • Bridger has used a submersible robot with camera and sonar capability to collect pictures and measurements of the pipeline. Information from the submersible camera showed 120 feet of pipeline is exposed and located one foot off the river bed for 16-22 feet.  The pipeline is anchored every 25 feet.

    Oil Spill Containment and Recovery Operations:

    • SWAT Consulting, Inc. from Alberta, Canada, has been on-site and lending their expertise in cold water oil spill containment and recovery. The team is considered to be a leader in its field.
    • Crews working on oil recovery at the ice slot in the river at a milepost 3.3 miles downstream of the spill site have recovered no oil. Because of this lack of recovery production and increased health and safety risks due to ice conditions, no ice slot will be established at milepost 6.1 and crews have abandoned ice slotting operations near Crane, Montana, which is approximately 35 miles downstream.
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is conducting spill trajectory modeling to determine the reach of the oil plume downstream of the spill site.
    • Reconnaissance crews continued flyovers to spot and characterize residual and oil sheen in open water areas.
    • Oil recovery remains difficult due to the ice on the river.  However, crews did recover approximately ten barrels of oily water of which approximately 50% is oil from the vicinity of the pipeline break.
    • Air sampling continues but will likely stop on Jan. 26 or 27 because no volatile organic compounds or other compounds associated with crude oil have been detected. 
  • January 30

    Protection of Glendive’s Drinking Water Supply

    • Glendive's Water Treatment Plant is operational. Samples collected and analyzed daily have indicated non-detects for benzene and other contaminants of concern. The City is acquiring equipment to independently monitor the water quality at its treatment plant.

    Identify and Recover Residual Oil

    • The amount of sheen observed has declined since the beginning of the response, and no sheen was observed downstream of river mile 6. Very little sheen has been observed at the ice slot constructed approximately 3.3 river miles downstream of the pipeline break.
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has assessed available data and the potential for downstream contamination and determined no significant source for continued water contamination. NOAA’s assessment indicates that the existence of a discernible downstream plume is highly unlikely.
    • Oil recovery around the pipeline crossing remains difficult due to the ice on the river. The crossing is just downstream of two convergent river channels where the ice is highly fractured and irregular. It appears that residual oil is trapped within the fractures and frazzle ice at this location. Crews continue to recover oil that is finding its way to the surface at this location.

    Assess Environmental Impacts

    • No wildlife impacts have been observed or reported to date. Fish tissue samples were collected by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in support of the precautionary fish consumption advisory that was issued and results are pending.
  • February 6

    Summary of updates from February 6:

    • Glendive's Water Treatment Plant is operational. Samples are collected from the plant each morning. Thus far, the samples, which are analyzed on-site by EPA's Mobile Laboratory, have been found to be non-detect for benzene and all other contaminants of concerns (volatile organic carbons).
    • Sheen was observed in open water areas between the pipeline crossing and a point just downstream of the Interstate 94 bridge approximately 7 river miles downstream. No other sheen was observed downstream of this point. The amount of sheen observed has declined since the beginning of the response.
    • Other than the area immediately around the pipeline crossing and a small amount of nonrecoverable oil discovered 3.5 miles downstream of the pipeline, no other oil was observed in the river.
    • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) conducted a spill trajectory model and, given the available data, determined that contaminants detected were well below public health concerns and may in fact be near background levels. Furthermore, NOAA determined that the results indicated that there was no significant source for continued water contamination and that finding and modeling a discernible plume was highly unlikely.
    • Oil recovery around the pipeline crossing remains difficult due to the ice on the river. The crossing is just downstream of two convergent river channels where the ice is highly fractured and irregular. It appears that residual oil is trapped within the fractures and frazzle ice at this location. Crews continued to recover oil at this location on January 30, 2015. Since this date, the Glendive area has experienced very cold temperatures and no recoverable oil has been discovered at this location.
    • Crews continue to collect water samples from the river as conditions allow.
  • February 23

    Summary of updates from February 23:

    • The amount of sheen observed downstream from the spill has declined since the beginning of the response. Several reports of crude oil, including a report from the confluence of the Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers, were investigated. No oil was found. Many of the reports of crude oil were found to be sediment and not oil.
    • Oil has been detected in fish in Glendive so the fish consumption advisory remains in place. For an update from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks visit http://fwp.mt.gov/news/newsReleases/fishing/nr_0887.html
  • March 6

    Summary of updates from March 6:

    • Reconnaissance was conducted from upstream of the incident location to the Montana / North Dakota border with no new visible impact observed
    • Six SPMDs recovered from Yellowstone River by USFW
    • Preliminary address list for community outreach prepared and submitted
    • Fifteen barrels (630 gallons) of oil/water mixture was recovered from Yellowstone near incident location
    • Aerial video was recorded at the incident site
  • March 15

    Summary of updates from March 15:

    • The Glendive Water Treatment plant is back online and making water. Workers completed the aeration system late this morning and it is working as expected. Readings of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) have been zero throughout the morning. The aeration system will allow the plant to continue operations as the last of the ice melts on the river and releases whatever amount of oil remains from the Poplar Pipeline spill January 17.
    • Officials at the Glendive Water Department asked residents to continue to conserve water until Monday, March 16, so that the water plant can refill its reserve tanks. The level in the reserve tanks dropped while the system was shut down during the last 30 hours.
    • Workers from Dawson County provided more than 750 gallons of bottled water the last two days to local residents, the prison and the local hospital.
    • It is important to point out that at no time did any contamination make its way into the Glendive water system. The system was shut down because of higher than normal levels of VOCs at the intake for the system. The new monitoring system installed after the January 17 breach of the Poplar Pipeline worked as designed and allowed workers to keep the city’s water supply safe.
    • The water in the system remains clean and safe to drink.
    • On Saturday morning, March 14 due to the ice break--‐up in the river, the city water plant detected a higher than normal level of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) at the intake. This situation was planned for and the plant temporarily shut down to preserve the clean water in the system.

Photo Gallery

Click on a thumbnail below to view the full size image.

Overview of the Yellowstone River, Jan. 19, 2015
Ice slotting oil containment trench carved in the ice of the Yellowstone River, Jan. 20, 2015
EPA on-scene coordinator Paul Peronard with Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Jan. 20, 2015
Excavated section of the Bridger Pipeline at the break site, Jan. 20, 2015
Montana Department of Environmental Quality sampling water at plant output, Jan. 21, 2015

Contacts

Lisa McClain-Vanderpool (mcclain-vanderpool.lisa@epa.gov)

Richard Mylott (mylott.richard@epa.gov)

Links for More Information

The following links exit the site Exit

Poplar Pipeline Response (Unified Command)

State of Montana

Bridger Pipeline

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