Workers are cleaning up the Yellowstone River in the weeks following a train derailment that released an oil-based asphalt substance into the river
Crews are cleaning up the Yellowstone River roughly 60 miles downstream from the site of a late June Montana Rail Link derailment in Stillwater County.
Thursday morning on an island just west of Billings in south central Montana, a crew bagged asphalt material for disposal.
Eight workers scooped and shoveled through wet sand to reach the tacky black material partially buried underneath.
They grabbed enough to roll it up and bag it.
Andy Graham with spill response company Polaris Applied Sciences says the crews are tackling areas flagged for cleanup as the process moves downstream from the incident.
“The assessment team came, walked the island, identified areas that need to be treated, and then that was brought back to operations, and we worked with operations to figure out how best to get the teams on, what areas to focus on, and how to get that product off of there,” he said.
Graham points out a dark blob of the oil-based asphalt material.
“You can see a lot of it remains on the rocks here,” he said. “In this situation, we would have them remove as much off of the cobble as they can, but they’re not going to be able to get all of it.”
Unified Command said earlier in July that crews can typically expect to recover a third of all released waste.
According to an online dashboard, workers as of Thursday had collected approximately 133,000 pounds of asphalt material. Unified Command is still assessing the quantity of asphalt that the rail cars carried and released.
The expected timeline of the initial emergency cleanup response is still up in the air, but a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokesperson says it could take weeks.