MTPR

EPA And BNSF Respond To Unidentified Sheen On Flathead Lake

May 4, 2017

The Environmental Protection Agency and BNSF Railway are responding to an unidentified sheen on the shoreline of Flathead Lake. 

The sheen was spotted earlier this week near Somers Beach at the northern end of Flathead Lake. BNSF spokesperson Ross Lane says the railway company is responding with sampling and containment measures.

"We don't yet know the cause of that sheen, but our initial field indications suggest that the sheen does exhibit characteristics common to natural, biological sources, like decomposed grasses and other organic material, rather than a chemical or petroleum source," says Lane.

The sheen is relatively close to the former Somers Tie Plant, which was deemed a superfund site in the mid-1980s due to contamination from the chemical treatment process of railway ties. BNSF coordinated with the EPA and Montana Department of Environmental Quality to conduct soil and water cleanup. Monitoring continues today.

BNSF is coordinating sampling analysis to identify the source of the sheen with the EPA and DEQ. The railway has taken precautionary measures to contain and remove the sheen.

An emergency response coordinator for the EPA is expected to arrive on scene Friday.