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Governor Releases Details of Lab Analyses of Oil from Exxon Silvertip Pipeline Spill

Press Release

Location: Helena, MT

Today Governor Brian Schweitzer and Richard Opper, Director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, discussed the results of the sample of crude oil taken from the site of the recent Exxon Silvertip Pipeline spill near Billings, Montana. The sample was taken from a section of the pipeline located near Riverside Park in Laurel. The analysis was performed by Energy Laboratories in Billings.

Governor Schweitzer said the analysis did not contain any surprises. "The analysis shows that the petroleum components are consistent with what you would expect to find in crude oil. One piece of good news is that the crude oil did not contain a lot of heavy metals or toxic additives that persist for long periods in the environment."

In mid-July, the Governor launched a sampling program "Montana Scientists Helping Montana Landowners." Landowners, or upon their request, scientists working for the State of Montana, sampled drinking water, irrigation water, surface water, and oiled soil samples from affected parcels of land. At least 14 drinking water wells and 6 irrigation wells were tested. In addition, at least 7 samples were collected from surface water bodies such as oxbows, sloughs or puddles. Currently, DEQ's database shows that four of the wells had trace concentrations of various chemical constituents, though none of them exceeded drinking water standards. "We're happy that none of the petroleum-related chemicals we tested for exceed drinking water standards," Opper said. "As an extra precaution, we do intend to resample the four wells.

The results have also come back from 87 soil samples taken from 23 properties. Nine of those properties showed no risk from crude oil. Low concentrations of petroleum constituents were found at 7 properties, and 7 properties had petroleum concentrations that required cleanup. "We encouraged people to sample the worst parts of their property, so we're not surprised to find evidence of crude oil in their soil," Governor Schweitzer said. "But it appears that what we did find was the heavier components of the oil. The lighter, smellier, more toxic elements of the oil have largely evaporated or weathered away already, which may be comforting news for the affected landowners."

The Governor added, "The State of Montana is committed to providing the most comprehensive and precise information about the contents of the pipeline and possible effects for the public and affected landowners."

At approximately 11:00 PM on Friday, July 1 a break occurred in a 12-inch pipeline owned by ExxonMobil that resulted in a spill of crude oil into the Yellowstone River approximately 20 miles upstream of Billings, Montana. DEQ estimates about 1,200 barrels were released. Call the Governor's information line at 406-657-0231 with questions, concerns or comments, email, or visit

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