No more oil to spill from Montana pipeline: EPA

HOUSTON Mon Jul 18, 2011 11:30am EDT

Andrew Cole of Yakima, Washington, on assignment for Exxon Mobil cleans up oil spill along the Yellowstone River in Laurel, Montana, July 6, 2011. REUTERS/John Warner

Andrew Cole of Yakima, Washington, on assignment for Exxon Mobil cleans up oil spill along the Yellowstone River in Laurel, Montana, July 6, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/John Warner

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HOUSTON (Reuters) - The danger of more oil leaking from Exxon Mobil Corp's ruptured pipeline in Montana has ended, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

The Silvertip pipeline burst on July 1, spilling an estimated 42,000 gallons of oil, or 1,000 barrels, into the scenic Yellowstone River.

Exxon has now drained the two segments of pipeline that were on either side of the break. The oily water mixture was removed and taken to the company's refinery in Billings for storage, EPA said.

"With the removal of the residual oil from these segments of the pipeline, the threat of secondary releases has been eliminated," Steve Merritt, EPA's on-scene coordinator, said in an agency update on Sunday.

There are 700 people involved in cleaning up crude that spilled into the Yellowstone River and onto its banks, the agency said.

Exxon and government officials will not be able to determine the cause of the break until the section of ruptured pipe is removed.

"We still do not know when we can excavate the pipeline," Exxon spokeswoman Karen Matusic said in an email. "This depends on river levels and necessary permitting."

Shares of Irving, Texas-based Exxon fell 0.5 percent to $82.56 in late morning New York Stock Exchange trading.

(Reporting by Anna Driver; editing by John Wallace)

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