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Yellowstone River asphalt cleanup from June’s train derailment near Reed Point postponed until next summer



Billings, Montana – The cleanup of debris from the Yellowstone River spill after a June derailment near Reed Point is almost done. Officials announced on August 16, 2023, that they’ll continue taking tips to remove more asphalt material.

Cleanup teams have finished work about 136 miles downstream from the derailment site, just below the confluence with the Bighorn River, according to the Unified Command overseeing the effort. The Unified Command comprises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Rail Link, and Stillwater County Disaster and Emergency Services.

Cleanup was initially planned to wind down when three or fewer “actionable asphalt areas” were found within a 10-mile stretch of the river. In the final 10 miles, only one such area has been identified. Due to low water levels, river operations were scaled down, and the cleanup will resume next summer.

A local cleanup task force will remain to respond to asphalt reports. If asphalt is seen in the river, individuals can send an email to

Approximately 231,700 pounds of asphalt material have been collected by teams, out of an estimated 419,442 pounds that entered the river after the derailment.

As of August 15, the asphalt material led to the deaths of eight snakes and eleven birds. One snake encountered the material and was later released. In total, 20 animals were confirmed to be impacted.

The derailment occurred on June 24 when a Montana Rail Link train derailed into the river due to the collapse of the Twin Bridges rail bridge. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the incident, with ten cars, including six with asphalt, going into the water. Additionally, three cars contained molten sulphur, and one contained scrap metal.


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