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Cancer-Causing Agent Detected in Water After Montana Oil Spill

Bridger Pipeline Spokesman Apologize for Oil Spill 0:32

The city of Glendive, Montana, on Tuesday advised residents to not drink or cook with the water from the municipal water system due to contamination, possibly from a crude oil spill. Elevated levels of benzene, a cancer-causing component of oil, were found in water samples taken from a treatment plant that serves about 6,000 people in the agricultural community. Truckloads of fresh drinking water were being delivered to the city for distribution. Officials said work at the Glendive Water Treatment Plant was under way to remove the contamination and bring the system back on line. That includes increasing the dose of activated carbon, which removes contaminants.

The city advisory came more than two days after 50,000 gallons of oil spilled from a break in 12-inch pipeline owned by Wyoming-based Bridger Pipeline Co. It was uncertain how long the water warning will last. Company and government officials still don't know how to remove crude trapped beneath the ice-covered Yellowstone River.

Representatives from Montana and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had said earlier that preliminary tests of the city's water did not show cause for concern. The water treatment plant operated until Sunday afternoon. Additional tests were ordered Monday after residents complained of the petroleum- or diesel-like smell from their tap water. That's when the high levels of benzene were found. Benzene was found in the range of 10 to 15 parts per billion, said Paul Peronard with the EPA. Anything above 5 parts per billion is considered a long-term risk, he said.

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— The Associated Press and NBC News staff