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Panel discussion planned for one-year oil spill anniversary

Posted: March 29, 2014 - 4:34pm

Five panelists will head a discussion Monday at the Clinton School of Public Service marking the one-year anniversary of the crude oil spill that occurred on March 29 of last year in Mayflower.

The hosts at the Clinton School say the panelists are to reflect on lessons learned over the past year in the wake of Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline rupture and provide input on how to minimize the chance of another disaster in the future.

Panelists are Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson; Representative Tim Griffin, R; Tammie Hynum, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Hazardous Waste Division chief; Attorney General Dustin McDaniel; and Graham W. Rich, CEO of Central Arkansas Water.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Clinton School Dean Skip Rutherford.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Friday he will provide an update on current litigation, which he said is in discovery as the state reviews many thousands of pages of documents related to the spill and documents from ExxonMobil Pipeline Company.

The state’s suit with Exxon is still set for Feb. 25, 2015, he said, with Justice Karen Baker presiding.

McDaniel said he and other panelists will look back at the experience and analyze the lessons learned and “how we can apply them going forward.”

Graham Rich, CEO of Central Arkansas Water, said his focus will be the Pegasus pipeline’s operation in the Lake Maumelle Watershed, Arkansas’ largest public drinking water system.

The system provides water to about 400,000 customers in 17 cities and communities.

Rich said he’ll speak about his concerns regarding the pipeline’s startup and what assurances the agency will have that a spill like the one in Mayflower won’t occur in the watershed.

He said he’ll also speak about his experience getting information about why the rupture occurred and how that might relate to the watershed.

“This follows the same message we’ve been saying ever since the rupture occurred. We want to know what the cause was and if it was something that could easily happen in the watershed,” he said.

The group has been spoken publicly about relocation of the pipeline or abandonment.

Rich said Central Arkansas Water would like to know what safeguards will be in place should the Pegasus pipeline restart.

Representative Tim Griffin said he’ll speak about where he feels Exxon failed in the spill and will praise the work of local leaders and responders who spent “countless hours in Mayflower.”

“I’ll talk about my proprieties going forward, particularly how to do everything I can to make the case that we should not restart that pipeline. Particularly, as it relates to the 13.5 or so miles of the watershed,” Griffin said.

He added the pipeline could also be redirected from the watershed.

Judge Allen Dodson said he’ll revisit the event a bit and focus on what could be done to reduce the number of incidents in the future, or to reduce impact.

Dodson said he feels there’s a solution that could be engineered to keep crude oil from reaching our lakes and rivers, and that “there’s no acceptable level” of oil getting into a lake.

Tammie Hynum, ADEQ hazardous waste chief, will offer information on cleanup in Mayflower.

Hynum said last week ADEQ approved a downstream area data assessment report that gave a current characterization of the soil sediments and surface water in Dawson Cove of Lake Conway and Lake Conway.

She said the report is the result of thousands of data samples that were analyzed at an ADEQ certified lab. The evaluations revealed a need to remove some sediment in Dawson Cove.

She said Exxon also needs to remove vegetation in the marsh area where oil gathered.

With the report approved, she said she anticipates Exxon will give ADEQ a “pre-design study” on April 19, which is a detailed design of the remedial actions ADEQ has approved.

One month after the pre-design study, she said ADEQ expects Exxon will provide a mitigation action plan that includes a schedule of implementing the approved remedies.

“We’ve gotten a lot of questions about when (Exxon) will be in the field,” Hynum said. “I’m about 60 days out in having a better idea of a schedule…”.

Panel moderator Skip Rutherford said Exxon was contacted by a Clinton School representative and asked to participate, but the company declined because of pending litigation with the State of Arkansas.

The panel discussion is slated for 4 p.m. at the Clinton School of Public Service’s Sturgis Hall.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. 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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