High-pressure water can do more damage than good, some experts say
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — The EPA and ExxonMobil are close to agreement on a plan to clean up the oil from a broken pipeline in the Yellowstone River in Montana. EPA officials said Wednesday they are reviewing a revised plan that was submitted this week and will make a final decision early next week.
Meanwhile, cleanup experts are still puzzling over how to clean the oil coating shoreline debris and vegetation.
Wednesday, cleanup crews tested high pressure water hoses to clean oil off the flood debris. According to the EPA’s afternoon briefing, the meth proved ineffective and probably won’t be used as a cleanup technique.
Some cleanup experts say using high pressure hoses can cause added damage. Long-term monitoring of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska showed that using high-pressure hoses to clean beaches actually forced the oil down deeper into the crevices between pebbles, resulting in longer-lasting environmental impacts, said Dee Bradley, a New Mexico-based oil spill cleanup expert.
The EPA said it’s currently not considering burning the debris piles in place because of “technical and logistical” constraints at the sites under review.
The 12-inch pipeline broke July 1, spilling an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil into the country’s longest free-flowing river. Traces of visible oil have been found as far as 80 miles downstream, and more of the oil has likely dispersed into the water column and has been carried far downstream in nearly undetectable concentrations, Bradley said.
As the river level drops, cleanup crews have been able to assess about 47 miles of shoreline and they are finding “numerous” heavily oiled debris piles. EPA experts said that, in some cases, the piles might have to be physically removed. In other cases, cleanup teams may use a fixative like sand or sawdust to eliminate the stickiness of the oil and provides a buffer for wildlife.
“In evaluating clean up techniques, we are carefully considering wildlife and habitat to ensure our remedies do not cause more harm than good,” the EPA said in a July 19 web update.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reported that 19 oiled animals have been seen (but not yet captured), including a bald eagle. Ten dead animals that have been collected for analysis. Five animals have been captured for cleaning and care.
There are now over 700 personnel involved in the cleanup of the spill site, with over 600 currently in the field engaged in cleanup or sampling activities. About 13 percent are local hires.
Filed under: energy, Environment, federal government, rivers, water, wildlife Tagged: | Environment, ExxonMobil, Montana, Montana oil spill, oil spill cleanup, Summit County News, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Yellowstone River oil spill