ExxonMobil Hopes You've Forgotten About Mayflower, Arkansas

Pegasus Pipeline

On March 29th, ExxonMobil’s Pegasus oil pipeline ruptured, pouring (what ExxonMobil said was) 200,000 gallons of oil into Mayflower, Arkansas. Now, months later, the residents of Mayflower are trying to sift through the lies and misinformation to find out exactly what’s happened to them, and what – of anything – they’ll be able to do about it.

“For days, the stench blowing from the sour heavy Canadian crude was rank,” explains the Arkansas Times. “Burning tires,” is what one resident, Ann Jarrell, called it. “It was just putrid. You’d smell it and you would gag.”

No one, though, told Ann that the smell was anything to worry about. On the contrary, in fact! When Ann called the Mayflower police to ask whether she was in danger, a man on the other end told her she was merely noticing an additive meant to alert people to a leak (similar to the non-toxic chemical that gives natural gas its “rotten potato” aroma). A few days later, an Exxon employee working on the cleanup came near her house told her not to fret. “I didn’t know what we were breathing in was toxic,” she said. “Nobody was giving us any information.”

ExxonMobil was Lying


Jarrell stayed put in her house. Only in late April would she learn about a report by a Louisiana firm called the Subra Co., that the “Wabasca Heavy Crude” that Exxon was forcing through the Pegasus pipeline needed “a formidable shot of lubricating chemicals, called diluents, to grease its passage”. The brew, it turned out, was brimming with polyaromatic hydrocarbons, carcinogens that causes a range of sicknesses with acute exposure.

In the days after the pipe rupture, air monitoring tests show, the surrounding neighborhood showed dangerous levels of benzene and possibly harmful levels of octane, cyclohexane, heptane, and hexane, along with detectible levels of toluene, butane, pentane and several other industrial chemicals. Some sources claim that it’s impossible, at this point, to say how much of what spilled were these polyaromatic hydrocarbons, but even conservative estimates would place the number in the tens of thousands of gallons of poison in the town’s air.

Many people in the neighborhood, like Jarrell, didn’t understand the risks. Outside the Northwoods subdivision of Mayflower, where 22 of 62 homes were marked for mandatory evacuation, there’s scant evidence that anyone from Exxon, the Environmental Protection Agency or the state Department of Health showed any urgency to notify residents that they were breathing an unknown quantity of known poisons. No one involved seemed to care, and – many in Mayflower believe – they still don’t.

Are you surprised that a big oil company like ExxonMobil lied to the residents of Mayflower? Are you surprised that they may have cut corners in their cleanupassuming they even know what’s really running through their pipelines?

You shouldn’t be.

Let’s not forget about Mayflower, Arkansas, and let’s all remember what’s really at stake here as millions of Americans find themselves endangered by the ridiculous teabilly nonsense that is Canadian shale oil and the Keystone XL pipeline. Share and Like, people – and head over to the original article for more photos and local interviews.


Source | Photos: the Arkansas Times.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.