Fish consumption advisory issued for Yellowstone River

fish contaminated near train derailment on yellowstone river in montana, montana living, mountain whitefish

Fish collected near derailment show high levels of toxins

Following a train derailment on the Yellowstone River, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is advising the public not to consume fish caught below the derailment near Laurel, Mont.

The DEQ has issued a consumption advisory on all mountain whitefish caught in the Yellowstone River from Twin Bridges Road railroad bridge to Laurel. 

Tar balls from the derailment have shown up 100 miles downstream of the railroad bridge collapse that sent numerous tank cars carrying petroleum products plummeting into Montana's Yellowstone River.

More than 66 tons (59.87 metric tonnes) of the black, gooey stuff have been removed from the river since the June 24 accident, officials said. Most of the spilled material — a binder for asphalt that sticks to river rocks and gets harder to handle as it warms — is expected to get left behind.

As part of a follow-up to the train derailment that occurred on June 24, dumping tons of asphalt into the river, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff collected five mountain whitefish and five rainbow trout of various lengths below the derailment site for testing. Results from the mountain whitefish tests showed levels of a chemical called phenanthrene high enough to warrant an advisory to avoid all consumption of mountain whitefish. It is not yet known if the impacts to mountain whitefish are a result of the train derailment, according to FWP, as the rainbow trout collected in this area did not show any levels of contamination. No other species of fish, including brown trout, were collected for testing.

FWP said it plans to target additional mountain whitefish and rainbow trout, brown trout, longnose suckers, and white suckers as available. Fish will be collected above and below the derailment site.

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