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BNSF Removes Materials From Flathead Shore As 'Precautionary Measure'

The sheen on Flathead Lake near Somers was first reported to the EPA earlier this week. Thursday, BNSF took steps to contain it. A BNSF representative told MTPR yesterday that early field indicators suggest the sheen comes from a natural organic source.
Nicky Ouellet

BNSF Railway says that, as a precautionary measure, it has removed material from the shore of Flathead Lake near Somers that has a mysterious, oily sheen. The company thinks the sheen's origin is biological, not man-made.

BNSF is coordinating sampling and cleanup measures with the Environmental Protection Agency, which is still waiting on its own sampling results. Those are expected Tuesday.

"At this time we don't have an idea as to where the sheen is coming from," says Katherine Jenkins, a community involvement coordinator for the EPA.

The sheen, which appears in pockets along a 1,000 foot stretch of shoreline near Somers, was first reported to the EPA early last week.

The EPA and BNSF took quick steps to contain and identify the source of the sheen due to its close proximity to the former Somers Tie Plant, which treated railway ties with creosote and other chemicals for several decades before being listed as a Superfund site in the mid-1980s. BNSF, in coordination with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA, oversaw soil and water cleanup, and continues to monitor the site.

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