News Briefs: Benzene Found at Montana Plant After Oil Spill

In this edition of wastewater news, a Yellowstone River oil spill affects drinking water, a Wisconsin utility struggles with a "buy American" mandate and a federal judge tosses a lawsuit initiated by the Mississippi Water Association.
News Briefs: Benzene Found at Montana Plant After Oil Spill

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An oil spill in the Yellowstone River has created problems for the residents of Glendive, Mont. Elevated levels of benzene were found on Monday, Jan. 19, in samples at the water treatment plant, which serves about 6,000 people. Residents were advised not to drink or cook with the tap water.

Authorities are working to decontaminate the treatment plant by adding additional activated carbon. If that approach doesn’t work, additional pretreatment will be added to the intake beneath the river.

According to a USA Today article, representatives from Montana and the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency said preliminary tests showed no cause for concern. However, after residents complained of a diesel-like odor in the tap water, further testing revealed benzene levels of 10 to 15 ppb. Anything above 5 ppb is considered a long-term health risk, according to the EPA.

The oil leaked from a 12-inch pipeline owned by Bridger Pipeline Co. The breach was about 5 miles upstream from the city and occurred directly below the frozen Yellowstone River. As of Wednesday, oil sheens had been reported as far away as Williston, N.D.

Residents have criticized how the situation has been handled, claiming that better and faster communication should have occurred.

“Emergencies don’t work in a streamlined fashion,” says Montana EPA’s Bob Habeck in the USA Today article. “It’s a process of discovery and response.”

Source: USA Today 

‘Buy American’ Policy Too Costly for Water System?

In Wrightstown, Wis., village officials are blaming a “buy American” mandate for stalling a water system pipeline project. The proposed pipeline, which would tap into the Green Bay water system, relies on a state-operated loan program that requires contractors to use American-made building materials. Village officials say the mandate explains why initial contractor bids have come in far above the $7 million budget.

“Obviously, our preference would be to buy American,” says Village Administrator Stephen Johnson in a Green Bay Press Gazette article. “But we have a responsibility to our customers.”

The additional expense comes from the cost of two metering stations, which were expected to cost $500,000 but instead drew bids starting at more than $2 million.

If necessary, Wrightstown officials say they’ll turn down the state loan and seek funding that will allow them to purchase foreign-made materials.

Source: Green Bay Press Gazette 

Mississippi Rural Water Association Lawsuit Dropped

According to an AP report, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Mississippi Rural Water Association against the State of Mississippi. The water association hoped to stop the Mississippi Public Service Commission from regulating certain aspects of rural water, specifically a rule that requires a 60-day delay in utility deposits for domestic violence victims. The water association claimed the commission overstepped its authority and conflicted with federal law.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Jordon III determined the rule didn’t conflict with part of the federal law meant to protect rural water groups’ revenue. Also, he said the state couldn't be sued because it has sovereign immunity under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Source: Associated Press 


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