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Crews rush to clean up Exxon pipeline spill on Yellowstone River

An Exxon gas station sign in Burbank, Calif.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The cleanup in Montana of that Exxon oil spill in the Yellowstone river is getting more complicated today. That's because mountain snow is melting and making waters rise.

Duane Winslow is emergency and general services director for Yellowstone County, Mont. He's set to tour the area with the governor later today but he's with us now.

Good morning.

DUANE WINSLOW: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Now Exxon officials were downplaying the scale of the spill, but were starting to get an idea of just how much damage we're looking at. What are you seeing?

WINSLOW: Well we're seeing a fair amount of damage along the Yellowstone River.

The Yellowstone River is at near flood stage, so it's very fast and anything on the river moves pretty quickly. It got down stream a little quicker, I think, than a lot of people thought. But Exxon is certainly ramping up their efforts to try and take care of the situation.

CHIOTAKIS: How much do people rely on the river for their daily lives and for businesses?

WINSLOW: It's used recreationally quite a bit, boating, camping. Tourism is our second-largest economy in Montana so that is very important. Also, Billings and cities downstream do take their drinking water from the Yellowstone River as well. So a lot of precautions are being taken to make sure that water stays clean.

CHIOTAKIS: And the cleanup phase right now, where are we?

WINSLOW: Well, they have about 200 people with boots on the ground. Because the river is so high and so fast they're not able to put boats out on the river so they're actually walking along the shoreline finding all the areas where the oil has come ashore and doing their cleanup, literally, step by step.

CHIOTAKIS: Dwayne Winslow, emergency and general services director in Yellowstone County, Mont. Thank you.

WINSLOW: Thank you Steve.

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