Delays and Cleanup Continue on Highway 35

By Beacon Staff

Water tests are coming back clean along the MT Highway 35 fuel spill. Carey Cooley, spokesperson for Lake County says the cleanup crew dug several test pits to make sure no fuel vapors or free product seeped under their efforts, and into water sources. These are based on field tests. Samples of residential, treated and lake water are also being analyzed in a lab for more detailed testing.

“This is a fairly difficult incident because of our rock beds,” Cooley says, “because of the series of cracks in the rocks.” Cooley says experts brought in to oversee the cleanup struggled to anticipate where the fuel would come out.

On April 2 a tanker driving on Highway 35 wrecked, spilling thousands of gallons of fuel. On Monday night, 2,000 tons of contaminated soil was hauled away. No fuel has been found on Flathead Lake, but Cooley says they’re ready with equipment if any is detected.

A water treatment system was set up to clean the water after fuel vapors were discovered in nearby streams last week. The water went through activated carbon filters and was discharged back into the lake. Cooley says they’re testing the discharged water, and so far the tests are also coming back clean.

Crews continue working at the spill site, about five miles north of the junction of Highway 35 and Highway 93 in Polson. Five- to 15-minute delays and one-lane traffic will continue at least until Friday. Cooley says they hope to have the excavated area paved and rolled on Thursday.

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