On July 6th EPA issued ExxonMobil an administrative order instructing them to provide information on the circumstances of the spill, conduct appropriate recovery and remediation actions, and perform ongoing environmental sampling. The order also requires ExxonMobil to provide a work plan which is currently being reviewed by the state of Montana, EPA, and other agency partners. Once approved, the work plan will be publicly available.
Preliminary testing results of water samples indicate there are no detections above drinking water standards; we will be providing data over the weekend. There are 3 water systems in the affected area: Billings, Lakewood, and Laurel. Additionally, EPA will be conducting indoor air sampling at residences impacted by the spill and will continue to coordinate domestic well water testing.
“The biggest challenge right now is the river itself, we have boats in shallow and slack waters but the water is too high and moving too fast to safely place boats in the main river channel,” said Steve Merritt, EPA On Scene Coordinator in charge of the cleanup. “There are more than 550 personnel on scene, and approximately 350 personnel are in the field right now working on this cleanup.”
Crews are actively working on 30 areas of recoverable oil along the river and in backwaters. We clean each pocket as it becomes accessible. Those that aren’t accessible are being monitored via air every day. Reconnaissance has gone 150 miles downstream and the furthest identified oil staining on the banks was about 70 miles, while the furthest spotting of possible foam was about 80 miles.
EPA is holding another public meeting in Laurel, MT on Tuesday, July 12. The location and time of the meeting will be announced within the next 24 hours.
There will be a second media availability session tomorrow at 11 a.m. The session will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, located at 27 North 27th Street in Billings, Conference Room 5 (3rdfloor). EPA staff and other Unified Command representatives will offer updates and field questions from media representatives.