By Nate Schweber
Environmental damage from recent oil leak ranges from contaminated water supply to polluted farmland
GLENDIVE, Montana — When an oil pipeline burst in July 2011 and poured 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River 200 miles upstream from Dena Hoff’s farm of wheat, beans and corn on the Great Plains in Glendive, she felt disgusted.
When it happened again Saturday, she felt terror. This pipeline breach was underneath the Yellowstone River, just a few feet from her sheep pasture. The new spill poured out some 50,000 gallons of crude oil. Leaders of this small riverside farming and ranching community in northeastern Montana warned residents not to drink their tap water, because benzene, a carcinogen, was found in the municipal water system. Oil slicked the river for dozens of miles, almost to the border with North Dakota. Hoff’s property smelled sickeningly like diesel.
“People need to understand this is a very serious thing,” she said. “It impacts everything and everybody downstream.”
Certainly the disaster is far more than just a local issue. As more than 100 emergency workers hacked at thick river ice in a frantic attempt to find and contain the spilled oil, the U.S. Senate in Washington made good on what its new Republican leaders promised would be their first order of business: approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which would also cross the Yellowstone River in Glendive.
“The State Department has affirmed the safety of Keystone XL pipeline,” said freshman Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, who was joined in his support by senior Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana. “It’s important that this job-creating project is approved.”
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