Exxon Pipeline Bursts, Empties Arkansas Neighborhood

A broken pipeline spewed some 3,500 – 5,000 barrels of heavy crude oil into a Mayflower, Arkansas, neighborhood, leading to the evacuation of at least two-dozen homes.

ExxonMobil is looking into the cause of its Pegasus pipeline burst that took place on March 29. Exxon’s Pegasus carries oil from southern Illinois to the Texas Gulf Coast, said The New York Daily News. Cleanup is still underway.

“That neighborhood was like a scene from ‘The Walking Dead,’” state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said after visiting the Little Rock suburb. “There were still Easter decorations on homes, but there was not a soul in sight other than people in Hazmat suits,” he added, according to the Daily News. McDaniel’s office is also conducting an investigation.

“I have been reminded by Exxon’s representatives that this is a relatively small spill and cleanup is going just great,” McDaniel said. “I hope they realize that to the homeowners in this area, this is not small—it is catastrophic. And for those who fear for their drinking water, it is not ‘great,’” he said about the disaster that left 22 families displaced and which harmed and killed a number of animals, according to ABC affiliate KATV, wrote the Daily News.

The thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil just missed contaminating a lake that is used as a local drinking source, according to the federal government, said the Daily News. So far, hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil and water have been sucked up  “The harder part comes power-washing sidewalks, or in the neighborhood where the spill originated, we’ve started moving out affected vegetation and will put down new lawns,” ExxonMobil spokesman Alan Jeffers told ABC News. ExxonMobil said it intends to pay for all cleanup costs and will compensate those residents who file damage claims, said the Daily News.

ExxonMobil has given displaced families $1,800 to cover costs of temporarily relocating, Representatives distributed Easter baskets at a town hall meeting last weekend, Business Insider reported. “I think it’s safer for me and my daughter to stay at the hotel for now,” resident Misty Sobanski who is staying at a Holiday Inn, told the Daily News.

At least seven ducks perished in the accident and another 16 birds, seven turtles, nine reptiles, a beaver, and a muskrat have been rescued for treatment. The total cleanup and damage estimates have not been finalized, but the Daily News noted that the historic Exxon Valdez oil spill that contaminated Alaska’s southern coast in 1989 involved some 260,000 barrels of crude oil and cost about $2.5 billion in clean up and $507 million in punitive damages.

In 2010, ExxonMobil was fined over not inspecting a different portion of the Pegasus line on a regular basis. The line is 65 years old, said the Daily News, which is increasing concern about aging pipeline infrastructure and issues surrounding installation of new lines.

Although ExxonMobil had publicly presented itself as having expeditiously disclosed how it stopped 2010’s Yellowstone River oil spill in Montana, federal documents confirmed that it took the oil giant about twice as long as it said to completely seal off the damaged, burst pipeline that dumped an estimated 1,500 barrels of oil in Montana and into the Yellowstone River. Last week, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed that ExxonMobil pay a $1.7 million fine over pipeline safety violations stemming form that 63,000-gallon Silvertip spill.

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