Study suggests 'ecological concerns' around site of Mayflower oil spill


LITTLE ROCK — A preliminary review of soil and sediment samples in and around a Mayflower neighborhood where a ruptured pipeline spilled thousands of gallons of oil earlier this year has raised concerns about possible environmental damage, according to a state report released Wednesday.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the state Department of Health said their reviews of soil and sediment samples found levels of Polycyclic Hydrocarbons and metals that were below levels expected to be a public health hazard but that “could pose ecological concerns,” ADEQ said in a news release.

ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured March 29, spewing 210,000 gallons of crude into the Northwoods subdivision in Mayflower and into a cove off Lake Conway. Dozens of residents in the subdivision were forced from their homes after the spill and have yet to return as the company conducted a massive cleanup operation.

“We’re reassured that the results don’t show a public health threat, but the results do show a need for continued remediation to eliminate ecological concerns, particularly in the cove,” ADEQ Hazardous Waste Division Chief Tammie Hynum said Wednesday. “We have not seen an environmental impact to the main body of Lake Conway.”

Earlier this week, ExxonMobil demolished two homes in the neighborhood because some oil had permeated their foundations.

ADEQ has asked ExxonMobile to submit a final data report to the department documenting the sediment, soil and surface water sampling activities and summarize field and analytical data by Friday.

Aaron Stryk, spokesman for ExxonMobil, declined comment on the report Wednesday, saying data was still being analyzed and that the company would submitting its final data to ADEQ by the Friday deadline.

Since the cleanup operation began, elected officials in the region, as well as members of the state’s congressional delegation, have pressed the company to release safety information about the pipeline. They also have called on ExxonMobil to move the pipeline from the Lake Maumelle Watershed, which serves as the source of drinking water for more than 400,000 Central Arkansas residents.

Several people who were forced from their homes have filed lawsuits against ExxonMobile in recent months, and in June Arkansas and the federal government filed a joint lawsuit alleging violations of state and federal pollution laws related to the pipeline rupture and oil spill. A new lawsuit filed this week in Faulkner County Circuit Court names 64 residents and businesses as plaintiffs.

The state is seeking civil penalties for violations of the Arkansas Water and Air Pollution Control Act and the state Hazardous Waste Management Act.

The state also asked the court to issue a declaratory judgment against the defendants for payment of removal costs and damages under authority granted to the state by the federal Oil Pollution Act.

The federal government is seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief under the federal Clean Water Act.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.