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'City that smells like oil'

Mayflower faces impact of oil spill

Posted: April 6, 2013 - 8:43pm
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COURTNEY SPRADLIN STAFF PHOTO    Workers clean up effects of the oil spill along the street in Mayflower.
COURTNEY SPRADLIN STAFF PHOTO Workers clean up effects of the oil spill along the street in Mayflower.

Dr. Jonathan Jameson of Maumelle signed the papers to buy his new home the afternoon of Friday, March 29. Two hours later, an ExxonMobil Corp., pipeline ruptured and pumped 5,000 thousand barrels of tar-like black oil into what was to be his new neighborhood.

He hasn’t seen his home since. About 22 homes were evacuated. Many people don’t know when they might be able to return.

Motorists passing by can smell the oil fumes from Interstate-40.

Residents say the spill is among the worst in Arkansas in recent history.

As crews scraped the earth near the area where the line failed this week, the off-gas worsened, said Ed Barham, state health department spokesman.

The department reviews air quality data and decides when homeowners can go home once Exxon finishes the cleanup, Barham said. That green light for homecomings isn’t likely to happen this weekend, he said Friday.

Exxon still has to scrape down areas and then bring in sod, Barham said.

Some owners aren’t waiting.

On Friday, homeowners filed a civil lawsuit against Exxon in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Arkansas Western Division. In the class action suit, homeowners said the pipeline was unsafe and its rupture hurt property values.

Before the spill, Northwoods was a nice subdivision with paved roads and brick homes with landscaped yards. On Starlite North, where Jameson wants to move, most homes are appraised at more than $140,000. At least one home is above $230,000, according to county assessor records online.

Those property values are likely to feel a blow, said Tammy Rogers, department chair and associate professor of finance at the University of Central Arkansas.

The next potential buyer will be told the area had an oil spill that impacted the house. Most people would rather live somewhere else, unless the owner drops the property value enough, said Rogers and Anthony McMullen, associate professor of business law at UCA.

“There’s always going to be the question ‘is it really clean?” McMullen said. “Knowing that you’ve had an accident, there’s always going to be an inkling in your mind, ‘Is this going to happen again?’”

 

‘A city that smells like oil’

As clean-up efforts continue, people are starting to talk about the impact the oil will have on home values, on the economy and on the spirit of those who live in Mayflower.

“No one wants to live in a city that smells like oil,” McMullen said.

The Mayflower economy and home prices might take an initial hit as the smell and oil linger in areas around Lake Conway, but long term the town will be OK, Mayor Randy Holland said.

“I think it’s going to be fine once it’s all said and done,” Holland said.

That optimism isn’t just from the mayor.

Jameson said he believes ExxonMobil will clean up his neighborhood, that the economy of Mayflower will grow and that the company will take care of displaced homeowners.

Jameson has until April 29 to move out of where he is now, he said. After that, he guessed he’d be in a hotel paid for by Exxon. After that, who knows, Jameson said.

If his home is severely damaged, he still won’t be able to renege on the contract, experts said. The home — near the center of the oil spill ­— is his.

“You buy it, you buy it,” said Wendy Moore, Real Estate One Realtor who represented Jameson in the sell.

“Once you sign it’s yours, along with all the problems that go along with it,” Rogers said.

Jameson plans to move into his home eventually but he is worried about the value of his investment, he said.

“Whenever you buy a home, you always want it to be an investment and not a liability,” Jameson said.

Mayflower is just beginning to understand the damages from the oil spill, McMullen said.

That includes: loss to businesses that were forced to shut down, property depreciation, cleanup costs and the fact that many people won’t want to do business or buy homes in Mayflower when the area smells and gives people headaches, he said.

Cleaning up Mayflower and paying for the economy could run into seven figures, McMullen said. That’s a price tag of more than a million, possibly, he said.

Exxon spokesman Kim Jordan said in email the company couldn’t comment on estimated damages.

The homeowners’ lawsuit asked for more than $75,000 exclusive of costs and interest for individual damages for the nuisance Exxon caused and another $5 million exclusive of costs and interest for damages “in the aggregate,” according to court filings.

So far, about 140 claims have been filed asking Exxon for compensation because of the oil spill, according to the company’s news release.

Jordan said she “didn’t have specific information on the claims.”

 

The Pegasus line

The broken line representing the now ruptured Pegasus Pipeline in the Northwoods subdivision plat is marked “gas,” but those who were building homes about a decade ago knew of the pipeline, a project manager said.

“I knew it was there,” he said.

The pipelines were marked on site and anytime construction crews were on those easement representatives from the company were there too, watching.

But if people didn’t wade through paperwork at the courthouse, they might not know the pipeline was there, Rogers said. Arkansans should decide whether they want to “fix” it so that home buyers can tell more readily what is in the pipeline or that it’s even there, she said.

“I think it’s a risk that people should be made aware of,” Rogers said.

The plat and the map from the Arkansas Geological Survey show the 1947-1948-built pipeline as labeled gas, but the state map could be wrong or the pipeline could have switched from oil to gas, said Doug Hanson, a geologist with the state survey.

Pegasus Pipeline was constructed to move crude oil from the Gulf to the Midwest, Jordan said in email. She said the pipeline was shut down in 2002, then reversed and restarted in 2006.

That change may have impacted Pegasus, according to federal records.

“A change in the direction of flow can affect the hydraulic and stress demands on the pipeline,” according to the Corrective Action Order issued to Exxon by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

ExxonMobil has been cited previously in 2010 for not inspecting the pipeline as often as required, Jordan said.

The ruptured section is also from the late 1940s, Jordan said.

On the day of the rupture, the pipeline was transporting Wabasca Heavy crude — about 95,000 barrels of oil a day — from western Canada, Jordan said.

The entire Pegasus Pipeline, all 850 miles of it, are out of service, according to the corrective report.

In the corrective action report, a federal official noted the pipeline “without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment.” When issuing the order, Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety, pointed out concerns that included the age of the pipeline, the flow change by ExxonMobil and concern for nearby waterways, people and environmentally sensitive areas.

The investigation into what happened is ongoing, officials say.

The federal department is involved in making sure that the pipeline is safe, preventing future leaks and finding out whether Exxon violated regulations, said Damon Hill, federal pipeline agency spokesman.

The investigation into the rupture can take about 20 months, Hill said.

 

Home sweet home

About 600 Exxon workers were working on the oil spill this past Friday.

By then, most of the “impacted soil” was removed from yards of six homes impacted by the spill, according to a company news release.

“Work will continue as weather permits to enable residents to return as quickly as possible to 22 homes evacuated on Starlite Road and Shade Tree Lane.

Meanwhile, Jameson said he is taking one day at a time

“We have good days and bad days,” he said.

The path to recovery is long, but things are getting better, said Fire Chief Carl Rossini.

On Friday afternoon, the mayor said in a news release that someone asked him “Is there anything we are missing?” Later, he awoke in the middle of the night with an answer.

“Mayflower was dealt this situation, but again this too shall pass,” the mayor wrote. “After all the oil is cleaned, and the residents are back in their homes, a normal life will resume. The debate on oil will continue, but the town, with God’s grace, will move forward.”

(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at scarlet.sims@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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lachowsj
5037
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lachowsj 04/07/13 - 07:43 am
6
1
Good job

Well written article. Glad to see the LCD is looking into the situation with a little more rigor.

crypted quill
10851
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crypted quill 04/07/13 - 10:51 am
4
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Good job reporting Scarlet.

Good job reporting Scarlet.

And good for you not being just a scribe for The Oil Public Relations manager.

caguldi
5
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caguldi 04/07/13 - 05:42 pm
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history

You do have some good information here. My jaw dropped, though, at the sentence "Residents say the spill is among the worst in Arkansas in recent history." Who are those residents? What history do they recall that is remotely comparable to this, the largest onshore oil spill in the entire nation since 2011, and by far the worst in Arkansas since at least 1986?

Scarlet Sims
1976
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Scarlet Sims 04/08/13 - 03:55 pm
3
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Bad spill

I'm not sure the spill is "the worst" in the state, which is why I qualified the statement in the story. I'm an Arkansas native and I asked three people here too whether they remembered anything like this. They couldn't think of one similar spill.

But look here at Arkansas big incidents: http://primis.phmsa.dot.gov/comm/reports/safety/AR_detail1.html?nocache=...

There is one toxic liquid spill of 5,800 barrels in 2007. Although, depending on what exactly was spilled, it might not be as bad. Also, someone will need to determine how bad the current spill really is for the environment and costs for cleanup. Neither of those have been released.

My point is that I can't really say with all certainty that this spill is the worst. Maybe if I were a scientist, but alas, I'm only a word nerd.

Diogenes
9136
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Diogenes 04/08/13 - 05:56 pm
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The 1965 tornado

That struck the Sun Pipeline terminal (across from Dusty's on hwy 65) wiped out two or three of their four story gasoline storage tanks. The tornado turned from gray to red and sucked up millions of gallons of gasoline. I'm not sure if anyone ever raised the question of the gasoline spill's long term toxicity. With the deaths and destruction from the tornado, I guess it just seemed trivial.

krg2
3104
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krg2 04/07/13 - 06:13 pm
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Yeah...good job, scarlet.

Yeah...good job, scarlet.

For such a 'liberal leftie paper' (hahahaha) the LCD sure has done a good job parroting Exxon while failing to be PROPERLY outraged over the lack of general media access and the treatment of some Mayflower residents...(specifically the fawning over McDaniel's visit by saying it was good not to turn the situation into a media something or other when he bowed to Exxon's demand that the media folks stay out of the way). Yeah...watching the State's Attorney General send his media gang running when Exxon demanded so took a lot of...courage. Man-up McDaniels and serve the people, not the corporate visitors.

I realize that 9/11 changed everything, terrorist and Civil Liberty wise, but when did corporations get to use our police as their personal security force against locals and get to dictate media access to land that is not there private land? Good thing we have a Democratic President and all this liberal media...ha!

Watching Exxon run over Mayflower without so much as a whimper from the local Watchdogs (another hahahahaha) (except, of course, the Arkansas Times and outside media) is very sad.

The LCD should've already used FOI to try to gain access to all public records regarding Exxon's Mayflower pipeline...(if y'all have already, excuse me). But at least Scarlet was allowed to do some genuine reporting...

Judy
53
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Judy 04/08/13 - 12:45 pm
2
2
Liberal Leftie???

Ok, let's start with mobile they are here and they are doing their best to fix the problem and clean up your town. When the mess is cleaned up the smell will go away. Let's talk about 600 workers who you know nothing about. You assume that they are all Exon-Mobil, not true there are quite a few that are not Exon's employees. These men came here because they care about what has happened to your town.The reason they don't want anyone in there is so they do not get injured no one but the clean up crew have the proper clothing to do the job and be in there. They are risking thier possible health to help you why all the bad press? Oh ya reporters love to make things worse than it is have faith these highly skilled men will get the job done. As far as compensation Exon has accepted responsibility and is paying for hotels for misplaced home owners. What makes me sick is these 140 people so far that have filed lawsuit who are just greedy liberals who expect to get rich from this. Please don't bring in the current president who could care less including his highly paid democratic staff. NEWS FLASH THEY DON'T CARE!

krg2
3104
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krg2 04/09/13 - 04:04 pm
1
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"Ok, let's start with mobile

"Ok, let's start with mobile they are here and they are doing their best to fix the problem and clean up your town."

OK, let's start with the Truth: Exxon is here to clean up the mess that it is responsible for making. Exxon folks are NOT doing us a favor, they're doing what someone is suppose to do when they 'cause a huge disaster for the public.

"When the mess is cleaned up the smell will go away. Let's talk about 600 workers who you know nothing about. You assume that they are all Exon-Mobil, not true there are quite a few that are not Exon's employees. These men came here because they care about what has happened to your town."

They came here because they are paid to do so, it's called having a job. They don't give a hoot about our town outside of concern for their job.

"The reason they don't want anyone in there is so they do not get injured no one but the clean up crew have the proper clothing to do the job and be in there."

Sure that's the reason...which is why the first thing they did was get a no-fly zone mandated for Mayflower 'cause that mess might jump up into the aircraft. Ha. We're suppose to have a free press that doesn't operate according to the dictates of private business when dealing with a PUBLIC disaster.

"They are risking thier possible health to help you why all the bad press? Oh ya reporters love to make things worse than it is have faith these highly skilled men will get the job done. As far as compensation Exon has accepted responsibility and is paying for hotels for misplaced home owners. What makes me sick is these 140 people so far that have filed lawsuit who are just greedy liberals who expect to get rich from this. Please don't bring in the current president who could care less including his highly paid democratic staff. NEWS FLASH THEY DON'T CARE!

Blah blah blah...again...they're getting paid for doing a job.

Don't read much history, do ya...else you might have a teeny grasp of the role and necessity of a free press. And...I'm very tired of folks like you, judy, blaming a corporation's messes on the big bad media. Blaming the messenger is stupid and nonproductive. If Exxon didn't mess up in Mayflower there wouldn't be anything to report.

There's no way that there are 140 liberals living in this area...so you must be lying about all those sue-happy folks being liberals.

crypted quill
10851
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crypted quill 04/09/13 - 05:48 pm
3
0
"We're suppose to have a free

"We're suppose to have a free press that doesn't operate according to the dictates of private business when dealing with a PUBLIC disaster."

AMEN krg2

Now this...

"Speaking of Exxon Mobil: The Log Cabin Democrat tweeted this afternoon that Exxon officials had told Mayflower schools, which is providing meeting space, that they didn't want the press to be allowed in a meeting about a $15,000 grant Exxon wants to make. If you had any doubt who was running this show"

http://www.arktimes.com/blogs/arkansasblog/

Reaganesque
4414
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Reaganesque 04/08/13 - 05:45 pm
1
3
Well.....

Everyone should now have a severe headache.

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