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More Tests on Montana City's Water Supply After Oil Spill

Officials were testing water at a Montana treatment plant to see if filters had scrubbed cancer-causing benzene from the drinking supply.

Federal officials were testing water on Wednesday at a Montana treatment plant impacted by a large oil spill to see if additional filters had scrubbed cancer-causing benzene from the drinking water supply for local communities.

Test results for the Glendive Water Treatment Plant, which draws from the Yellowstone River, were expected back on Thursday. Tests from Tuesday revealed benzene in the Glendive water at a level of 15 parts per billion — three times greater than the water quality standards safe level, said Jeni Garcin-Flatow of the state’s department of environmental quality.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set up a mobile lab in the area and was testing the water. Residents aren’t allowed to drink or cook with the plant’s water supply after the 40,000-gallon spill from the decades-old Poplar Pipeline on Saturday, but they can use it for showers and cleaning, Garcin-Flatow said.

The second major spill into the Yellowstone River in less than four years renewed concerns among state officials and local residents about the country’s aging pipeline network, The Associated Press reported. Others also said they worried about allowing the disputed Keystone XL Pipeline to run about 20 miles upstream of Saturday’s spill on the Yellowstone.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester told the AP that the spill could have been prevented, but "we just didn't have the folks on the ground" to stop it. He said older pipelines should have to meet tougher safety standards and urged more frequent inspections.

Farmer and rancher Dena Hoff applauded the pipeline’s owner, Bridger Pipeline, for taking responsibility for the spill. But she worried about the potential troubles that Keystone could bring.

"It's the nature of the beast. Pipelines leak and pipelines break. We're never going to get around that," she told the AP. "We have to decide if water is more valuable than oil."


— The Associated Press and NBC News staff