"SUNBURST, Montana -- It took a house explosion in 1955 to discover a 20-acre gasoline leak from a broken underground pipeline here.
Nearly five decades later, it took a lawsuit demanding the resulting plume be cleaned up to reveal the full extent of contamination from the former refinery.
'I think it would be completely washed under the rug and time would have lapsed so there was nothing that could be done about it,' said Lynda Clark, one of six people guiding the cleanup as part of the Sunburst Restoration Group. 'I think it would still be exactly like it was 10 years ago, if not for the lawsuit.'
In 2001, approximately 80 people and the school district sued Chevron, the current refinery property owners, demanding that it clean up the plume.
As recently as 2003, state officials and Chevron thought it best to let nature break down the hydrocarbons in the spilled fuel."