Missouri monitored for impacts from two spills
By Jerry W. Kram
North Dakota regulators are keeping a close eye on the Missouri River these days as two major spill are causing water quality concerns for Williston and other communities downstream, including Mandaree and Parshall, that use Lake Sakakawea as a water source.
One spill occurred when a pipeline that crossed the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Mont., ruptured and spilled a large amount of oil beginning on Jan. 17. Cleanup of the spill has been hampered because the river is covered with ice, which complicates the process of isolating and removing the oil, said Dave Glatt, Chief of the Evironmental Health Section of the North Dakota Department of Health. Glatt said this was the second time a pipeline has ruptured under the Yellowstone in the past four years.
"EPA believes, from visual observation, that the spill didn’t reach past Sidney, Mont.," Glatt said. "We asked EPA to get actual water quality samples from the river. They’ve done that but we haven’t seen the results yet. That will give us an indication of how far downstream the contamination has gone."
The NDDOH is also sampling water at the Williston Water Treatment Plant. They sample did find a low level of benzene and related compounds, which are found in crude oil. Glatt said the level of these compounds was well below the federal safe drinking water standards. Benzene dissolves in water more easily than other oil-based compounds, so it shows up first when there is a spill, Glatt explained.
"So the water is safe, but those compounds were there," Glatt said. "But we didn’t find any in the distribution system (after the water was treated). We took a second sample and the level was lower. But we still have people up there sampling the distribution system."