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Cancer-causing agent detected in water from Yellowstone spill

GLENDIVE, Montana - Some residents of an eastern Montana farm community are criticizing officials for taking more than two days to notify them that their drinking water is contaminated with a cancer-causing chemical.

Elevated levels of benzene were found in water samples taken from a treatment plant that serves about 6,000 people in the agricultural community of Glendive near the North Dakota border. The contamination followed a 50,000 gallon oil spill that found its way from a break in a 12-inch pipeline into the Yellowstone River.

Truckloads of bottled water were coming in Tuesday, and residents were warned not to drink or cook with water from their taps.

Uncertainty over how long the water warning will last and why company and government officials still don't know how to remove crude trapped beneath the ice-covered Yellowstone River is adding to residents' frustration.

Federal, state and local officials were working on a plan to decontaminate the water system. Glendive Mayor Jerry Jimison said he "didn't have a clue" when the water treatment plant would be back in operation.

Paul Peronard, the on-scene coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the impact of someone being exposed to the contaminated water is probably different than long-term chronic exposure would be, reports CBS Bozeman, Montana affiliate KBZK-TV. Long-term impact is considered more dangerous.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock toured the spill site Monday afternoon. He said he expected Bridger to continue its cleanup efforts "until it's cleaned up to our standards."

"The water's a concern," Bullock said. "I expect Bridger to continue and provide all the resources needed."

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