MAYFLOWER, Ark. — Residents affected by an oil pipeline spill in central Arkansas could be displaced for weeks, officials say.
ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. said Sunday that more than 12,000 barrels of oil and water have been recovered since the company's Pegasus pipeline ruptured Friday. The cause of the spill remains under investigation.
Police called for the evacuation of 22 homes in a Mayflower subdivision after the pipeline ruptured. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that residents from all but one of the affected homes have complied with the evacuation request.
The spill could play a role in the politics surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport oil from tar sands in Canada to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists have criticized the proposal, saying that a pipeline could be prone to spills and would ensure that the carbon-laden tar sands are fully developed. A recent analysis from the U.S. State Department seemed to knock down one of their arguments, by saying that when it comes to global warming, shipping the oil by pipeline would release less pollution than using rail.
ExxonMobil said it is using 15 vacuum trucks and 33 storage tanks to clean up and temporarily store the oil. The company says it sent 120 workers to respond to the incident alongside federal, state and local responders. Because of the size of the spill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has jurisdiction over the cleanup efforts.
"This is going to be an extensive and long cleanup," onsite EPA coordinator Nicolas Brescia told more than 200 people at a community meeting Saturday at Mayflower High School, according to the Democrat Gazette. "So there is going to be stages in it. Right now, the goal is to pick up as much free product as they can.
"I can't tell you how long it's going to take to clean up all the impacted areas."
ExxonMobile's Pegasus pipeline carries crude from Pakota, Ill., to the Texas Gulf Coast.
The company said about 50 people affected by the spill in Arkansas had filed claims for reimbursement as of Sunday.
"We realize what significant inconvenience this is, and we want to make sure (evacuees) have a place to stay and meals," said Karen Tyron, an ExxonMobil vice president.
Darren Hale, who lives in the evacuated area, said he plans to file a claim. He, his wife and their four children are staying in a hotel.
"The major concern is when will we be able to go back home?" he said. "I've heard three contradictory stories over the past 24 hours. Initially, I was told we would only be out a day or two. Saturday morning I was told by police and from Exxon to pack for at least a week. Now we are being told two weeks. The bottom line is, no one knows."