Montana quits spill command post with Exxon Governor cites lack of 'straight answers' and restricted access to center
An estimated 350 federal and Exxon Mobil contractors were cleaning contaminated areas of riverbank by Thursday, said Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. President Gary Pruessing.
"It's not soiled everywhere but there are pockets of it," Pruessing said. "It's going to take a while as we try to get our hands around where the contamination is and then clean it up."
The investigation into the cause of the rupture has focused on the possibility that raging high water from a season of heavy rains and record snowmelt washed away some of the riverbed around the buried pipe, exposing it to debris swept through the channel.
The Department of Transportation had stated in documents released earlier this week that the company reported on June 1 that the line was buried under "at least 12 feet of cover" where it crosses the river near Laurel.
A DOT spokesman on Thursday clarified the 12-foot figure as applying to the section of pipeline beneath the bank of the river.
The depth of the section beneath the central portion of the riverbed was measured by the company in December at 5 to 8 feet. Determining its depth when the pipe failed will be part of the federal investigation into the spill.
The depth was measured after officials in Laurel raised concerns about the safety of the pipe because of erosion along that stretch of the river. In 2009, a Williston Basin Interstate Pipeline Co. natural gas line that crossed in almost the same spot ruptured during high waters
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