MAYFLOWER — Aaron Stryk, communications and media advisor for ExxonMobil Corporation, said Exxon Mobil has made a lot of progress since the Pegasus pipeline burst, spilling 210,000 gallons of oil in Mayflower six months ago.
“We’ve transferred to remediation and monitoring,” he said. “We’ve removed all free standing oil as well as contaminated soil and vegetation.”
Stryk said remediation means all contaminates have been removed from the environment, including surface and ground water, for the protection of human health and the environment.
Moving from emergency response to remediation is a decision made not only by Exxon, Stryk said, but by the Unified Command, which includes the Enivronmental Protection Agency, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Faulkner County, including Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson.
“We work together with them, and it is up to them to sign off on the clean up operation,” he said. “After inspections, they determine when emergency response goes into remediation.”
Although the Pegasus Pipeline itself is in stable condition, the Northwoods Subdivision is still operating under unified command.
In a recent Mayflower city council meeting it was announced that 10 of the 22 evacuated homes in the Northwoods Subdivision had been cleared for reentry, Stryk said.
In a public release from ExxonMobil, Faulkner County and the City of Mayflower, it was announced that several Northwoods residents had returned to their homes or had plans to return.
Three of the evacuated homes on North Starlite Drive have not been cleared due to oil activity in the soil surrounding the foundation of the home.
“Over the summer, small droplets of oil would rise to the surface at the homes directly impacted,” Stryk said.
Exxon is working to address each area, evaluating the best options for the future to ensure each of those droplets of oil are gone, he said.
Stryk said ExxonMobil owns two of those homes, and is still working with the third homeowner to discuss what their options are under the Property Purchase and Price Protection Program.
This program protects the property value of the affected homes for the families who choose to stay, and helps facilitate the sale at a guaranteed price for those who choose to move within the next three years.
Stryk said there is no timetable for how long ExxonMobil will be a presence in Mayflower. The company recently established a Community Outreach Office in downtown Mayflower.
Stryk said Exxon won’t leave until they are satisfied that the job is done.
The marsh and cove area between I-40 and Lake Conway is currently being assessed for additional remediation measures.
“Our goal is to restore the beauty of the neighborhood and effective remediation takes time,” he said.
The investigation into what caused the spill will also take time as the investigation is still ongoing. Stryk said the pipe will remain shut down, and Exxon will continue to do supplemental testing to maintain integrity of the pipe.
“We want to understand everything there is to know, and why this happened to make sure it never happens again,” he said.
As far as restarting the pipeline, Stryk said ExxonMobil is looking at and evaluating all their options, but it is premature to talk about the future until the investigation is done.
Stryk said the compnay is facing several lawsuits, but the main lawsuit is the lawsuit filed by the state and federal officials in June.
On Aug. 23 the company’s legal team filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against ExxonMobil based on insufficient claims, Stryk said.
“Our responsibilities are unaffected by that motion,” Stryk assured. “This filing is part of the normal legal process.”
ExxonMobil’s second quarter earnings for 2013 were $6.9 billion, down 57 percent from the second quarter of 2012.
ExxonMobil’s Chairman Rex W. Tillerson said weaker refining margins and volumes associated with planned refinery turnaround and maintenance activities negatively impacted Downstream earnings.
Stryk said regardless of litigation, the company is committed to maintaining its reputation after the oil spill.
“We take any of these incidents seriously and we will continue to apologize to the people of Arkansas,” he said. “We don’t want situations like this to happen anywhere, and we will continue to stay in Mayflower until the job is done.”
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. 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)