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UPDATED: Exxon: no current health/environment hazards in Mayflower

Posted: March 25, 2014 - 6:30pm
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With the year’s anniversary of the Exxon Pegasus Pipeline failure and the deadline for Exxon to submit its “remedial work plan” just around the corner, two Exxon officials gave a summary of the work so far to clean up Mayflower.

They spoke at a press conference in Mayflower on Tuesday afternoon.

"There's been a lot of progress, and it makes sense to sit down and assess where you're at; what you've done and what's left to do," County Judge Allen Dodson said. 

Karen Tyrone, VP of Exxon’s pipeline division, said that the company is wrapping up its remedial work plan — which is basically a report outlining what measures have or can be taken to prevent another rupture and oil spill along the pipeline. Exxon’s deadline to submit this report is April 7. The measures that Exxon proposes will have to demonstrate that the pipeline is safe to the satisfaction of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Tyrone said at the press conference that she couldn’t comment on the contents of this document or what the company would do differently if it is allowed to start pumping oil through the pipe again.

“It is [Exxon’s] desire to prove the integrity of the pipeline,” Tyrone said in response to a question about whether Exxon intends to argue for the pipeline to be reopened, but wouldn’t give any details.

Exxon spokesman Aaron Stryk said in a phone interview after the press conference that he couldn’t speak as to the details of the remedial work plan, but did say that it involves proposed testing measures for the length of the pipeline to hopefully prove its integrity and incorporates “lessons learned” in Mayflower after the March 29, 2013 oil spill.

It has been alleged in lawsuits against Exxon that the pipeline was being used to transport a more dense form of oil than it was designed for, and that operations to reverse the flow caused metal fatigue. 

Tyrone also said that soil and water sampling currently shows no ecological or health hazards in Mayflower associated with the oil spill. The samples were tested by Exxon scientists and independent state labs under the control of the state’s department of health, game and fish commission and department of environmental quality.

Nick Medina, Exxon public and governmental affairs manager, said that the company planned to keep its community outreach station in Mayflower open and would “continue to honor any valid complaint that is out there.”

The Exxon officials acknowledged an oil "sheen" that periodically shows up on parts of a cove where the oil got into, but said that this would be addressed by the removal of a small amount of soil near the water's edge and maybe placing some activated clay in the area, which makes oil break down quicker. 

Overall, the tone at the press conference was hopeful, with Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland describing a round of street construction projects including the Western Loop overpass just north of Mayflower. Holland assured Mayflower residents that he and Dodson will continue to "make sure that Exxon is accountable for everything they do," and that it was time to look to the future. 

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. 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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