GLENDIVE, Mont. (AP) — A cancer-causing component of oil has been detected in the drinking water supply of an eastern Montana city just downstream from a crude oil spill that entered the Yellowstone River.
Elevated levels of benzene were found in samples taken from a water treatment plant that serves about 6,000 people in the agricultural community of Glendive near the North Dakota border, officials said.
Truckloads of bottled water were expected to be brought in Tuesday, and residents were warned not to drink or cook with water from their taps.
Up to 50,000 gallons of oil spilled Saturday from a break in a 12-inch pipeline owned by Wyoming-based Bridger Pipeline Co.
Representatives from Montana and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said preliminary tests did not show cause for concern but additional tests ordered after residents complained of a petroleum- or diesel-like smell from their tap water revealed the benzene.
Wesley Henderson, a 36-year-old oilfield worker, said he bought 5 gallons of water after his wife noticed a strange odor coming from their tap water. An advisory against ingesting water from the city’s treatment plant was issued late Monday.
“It sucks,” Henderson said Tuesday. “I didn’t find out about the advisory until after I’d been drinking it. My stomach hurt all day yesterday. I don’t know if that was just in my mind.”
Shawn Edman said officials should have issued the advisory earlier.
“It seems like a late advisory,” he said. “That’s two days later.”
Scientists from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the elevated amounts of benzene are above the levels recommended for long-term consumption but don’t pose a short-term health hazard.
Federal, state and local officials were working on a plan to decontaminate the water system.
Another pipeline spill along the Yellowstone River in Montana released 63,000 gallons of oil in July 2011. An Exxon Mobil Corp. pipeline broke during flooding, and oil washed up along an 85-mile stretch of riverbank.
Exxon Mobil is facing state and federal fines of up to $3.4 million from the spill. The company has said it spent $135 million on the cleanup and other work.