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Construction closes Whitefish path section in response to oil sheen

by Daily Inter Lake
| May 24, 2023 1:00 AM

A section of Whitefish’s shared use path along the Whitefish River will be closed beginning Monday, May 22 due to construction after an oil sheen was spotted in the river in April.

The path will be closed from near Miles Avenue north where it runs between the river and the BNSF Railyard to just south of Edgewood Place. The Roundhouse Landing river access will also remain closed during this time.

The closure will include both signage and barriers to alert users, the city of Whitefish notes in a release.

Following an investigation of the seep identified along the riverbank at Roundhouse Landing on April 10, BNSF determined that abnormally low groundwater levels allowed impacted groundwater to pass underneath an existing interceptor trench. Despite the sheen, there was no measurable amount of oil or petroleum in the river, officials said at the time.

In consultation with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, BNSF has designed an improved interceptor system, including a deeper trench, that will prevent low groundwater levels from bypassing the system, according to the city.

Work is expected to last approximately six weeks.

BNSF and the city will continue to work closely together to ensure the Whitefish River is a safe and enjoyable recreational opportunity, the city said in a release.

BNSF in 2019 investigated a complaint of a petroleum sheen in the same area and worked alongside the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the area.