2015 Yellowstone River Oil Spill

Instructions for Flushing Your Water Pipes


photo from the scene

On January 17, 2015, Bridger Pipeline LLC detected a pressure drop and shut down the flow in the oil pipeline that crosses the Yellowstone River approximately 5 miles upstream of Glendive, Montana. Bridger notified local Montana authorities of a potential release of Bakken crude oil into the Yellowstone River from the pipeline. Bridger estimated the volume of released oil at between 12,000 – 50,000 gallons. The pipeline system runs from Canada to Baker, Montana, and carries crude oil from the Bakken oil-producing region in Montana and North Dakota.

Early sampling by the state indicated water contamination occurred as a result of the spill of crude oil. On January 19, ATSDR reviewed the preliminary field screening sample collected by Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (MT DPHHS) and advised MT DPHHS that residents not drink or cook with the water from the municipal water system because of contamination from the crude oil spill. In response to ATSDR’s recommendation, the State made arrangements for bottled water to be available in Glendive and advised residents not to use the water for drinking or cooking. This is called “Do Not Use” guidance.

Also on January 19, Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced a state of emergency for Dawson and Richland counties and the City of Glendive advised residents to not drink or cook with water from the city’s municipal water system. Bottled water is being distributed to residents while the “Do Not Use” guidance is in effect.

Beginning on January 20, EPA worked with Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, Bridger Pipeline, and the City of Glendive Public Works to secure other drinking water supplies for residents and develop a plan to flush the water distribution system to clean it. Workers installed additional treatment capability at the Glendive Water Treatment Plant to clean the system and bring it back online.

On January 21, the Glendive water treatment plant was decontaminated. Preliminary sampling showed all of the contaminants that were elevated in water samples earlier in the week were below federal clean water standards.

On January 23, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) announced that the Glendive municipal drinking water supply now meets standards set by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

ATSDR continues to support the State and work with EPA and other federal partners to support the response efforts and provide additional health guidance as more information is available.

Additional Resources

ATSDR Resources

Page last reviewed: January 23, 2015