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Workers return to Yellowstone River for asphalt cleanup

Black oil-based asphalt material covers a stick on a Yellowstone River beach covered in rocks
Kayla Desroches
Yellowstone Public Radio
A splotch of asphalt material from a Montana Rail Link train that derailed in June 2023

Cleanup along the Yellowstone River in south central Montana is scheduled to pick up again Monday, almost one year after a train derailment in Stillwater County spilled thousands of pounds of oil-based asphalt into the river.

Larry Alheim with the Department of Environmental Quality said workers will target spots of the Yellowstone River that caught heavy amounts of pollution downstream of the derailment.

“We will have scout boats out ahead of the teams that are looking for the asphalt, and those are just looking for the best channels to use, the best accesses, so they’re kind of our safety boats,” he said. “And then we’ll have teams out looking for asphalt.”

Surveyors who identify small amounts of asphalt will pick it up themselves or call in operation teams for larger deposits. According to a news release, they’ll start with a section of river between Columbus and Laurel.

The DEQ says this stage of cleanup follows three days in April where workers recovered roughly 66 pounds of asphalt.

To date they’ve picked up over 200,000 pounds of material, or more than half of the total estimated asphalt released from the Montana Rail Link train late last June.

Kayla writes about energy policy, the oil and gas industry and new electricity developments.