Pipeline leak brings crude reality to Arkansas

Arkansas pipleline leak

(CNN) — Heavy crude oil flowing like a river through a central Arkansas neighborhood could keep residents away for several more days as crews work to clean it up.

The oil began spilling into the Mayflower, Arkansas, subdivision Friday from a 2- or 3-inch gash in the Pegasus pipeline, which carries Canadian crude from Patoka, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas, according to a state transportation engineer. The cause of the leak was undetermined, he told CNN affiliate KARK in Little Rock.

About two dozen homes were evacuated as the crude oil, which originated in Canada and was bound for Gulf Coast refineries, crawled through yards and down streets.

“Hopefully in the near immediate future we can get residents back into certain areas of the neighborhood,” Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Nicolas Brescia said Sunday as reporters were given a tour of the neighborhood.

Exxon Mobile, which owns the 60-year-old pipeline, met with displaced residents over the weekend to explain how they can make claims for losses. “If you have been harmed by this spill then we’re going to look at how to make that right,” Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. President Gary Pruessing told them.

Resident Darren Hale complained to CNN affiliate KHTV that being forced to leave his home was frustrating.

“I’ve heard three contradictory answers as to when I will be able to go back home,” Hale said. He was first told it would be two days, but later that it would be up to two weeks, he said.

Joe Bradley, whose home is about five houses away from the rupture, told KHTV he was worried about how the spill could affect his 8-year-old daughter’s health. “Is she supposed to ride her bicycle out here playing with kids out here,” Bradley asked.

An around-the-clock clean-up operation began Saturday, with workers scrubbing streets and driveways in the Norwood subdivision, CNN affiliate KATV reported.

“The next step is going to be power washing,” Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson told KATV Sunday. “More than likely, I think we are doing some testing with some power washing right now with the techniques involved there.”

None of the estimated 12,000 barrels of oil that spilled has made it to nearby Lake Conway, a local drinking water source, Dodson said.

“We’re approximately a mile from Lake Conway or at least from the cove,” he said.

The Pegasus pipeline, which could carry up to 90,000 barrels of crude each day, was built more than 60 years ago, an Exxon Mobile spokesman said. Leaks are not uncommon, but the company’s recent inspections showed no red flags for this section, he told KARK.

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