MAYFLOWER — Not many people realized what exactly was happening on March 29 when a pipeline burst in the Northwoods subdivision, spilling oil onto neighborhoods streets, backyards and water areas leading to Lake Conway. Even that evening, first responders who began working on containment believed that disaster had been averted.
It was not until the next day when everyone figured out that containment and cleanup were far from over.
The six months that have passed have been filled with displaced residents, a county response team that has always been working, an oil company attempting to figure out what went wrong and a state government investigating about possible legal action.
The Mayflower oil spill does not touch the larger disasters in the southeast gulf or in Alaska, but it has changed the lives of many people in the area, perhaps forever.
Just one day following the discovery of the spill, ExxonMobil representatives released details about the accident while the Environmental Protection Agency classified the spill as “major.”
Since then, battles have been waged over the cause of the spill, the debate over restarting the pipeline and the possibility of litigation from individuals and from government agencies have been the highlights of each passing day.
But even as there have been confrontations about the after effects of the spill, as soon as two weeks later, officials with the EPA stated that health effects will be “minimal if any” on those residents who were closest to the spill. ExxonMobil responded with compensation to the Northwoods residents, including $10,000 to each residence affected.
A little over a month later, the same Pegasus pipeline ruptured in Missouri, and while not as drastic as Mayflower, it gave new ammunition to those who wanted to shut down the entire pipeline. An investigation showed that the gash in the pipeline in Mayflower was 22 feet long and two inches wide. ExxonMobil blamed the manufacturer of the pipeline, although that company no longer exists.
In the wake of those revelations, two class action lawsuits were filed, and another lawsuit was filed by Arkansas officials and federal prosecutors claiming violations of environmental laws.
During the summer, the Log Cabin Democrat conducted independent testing of water and soil from affected areas to see if conditions were livable. Results of those tests, done with the help of Arkansas State University, revealed that lake water was safe, although some areas of the cove remained questionable.
Six months later, much has been done to clean up the area, but there is much to do and much to play out, most notably the lawsuits, which may not come before a court until mid-2014.
Until then, work continues to be done, and questions continue to be asked.
All the answers may not be available for another six months or later.