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Under Their Feet: Oil Pipeline Spill Forces Neighborhood To Evacuate

Mayflower neighborhood oil spill; photo by Ryan Liggett @KATV

Mayflower neighborhood oil spill; photo by Ryan Liggett @KATV

Friday afternoon, an Exxon-Mobile pipeline that runs through Mayflower, Arkansas sprung a leak. Though it has been contained as of Saturday afternoon, there is still a substantial clean-up looming. That’s going to be rather a large task as oil spilled into the storm drain system flowing into a drainage ditch. There’s a lake nearby too, as if the drainage system weren’t bad enough. The Office of Emergency Management has a Hazmat team on the site, working to buttress earthen dams that are holding back the more than 10,000 barrels of oil. Exxon-Mobile also has a team investigating – and already spinning the situation:

Exxon-Mobil Pipeline Company is responding to a crude oil spill near Mayflower, [AR]. We are working with emergency responders and local authorities to respond to the incident and are establishing an information line for community support. We regret that this incident has occurred and we apologize for any disruption or inconvenience this has caused.The matter is under investigation. We will provide updated information as soon as it becomes available. (Source)

Here’s the really obnoxious thing: the state Oil and Gas Commission can’t help. Since the pipeline is under the auspices of the Department of Transportation (really? good grief!), the state has no control or authority regarding the pipeline. They can’t inspect it and have no oversight on a structure that has shown itself to be a threat to local safety. After all, it runs under a freaking subdivision!

Early reports stated that “dozens” of homes were being evacuated, but it turned out only 20 homes were affected. One of them was completely surrounded by the crude oil. One wonders whether or not all of the residents were informed that they lived on top of an oil pipeline when they bought their homes.

The spill also affected local highways, forcing the closure of Highway 365 and I-40. I bet that was a fun traffic jam. And now the community will have to live in the center of a construction zone as engineers work to build a culvert to replace the one that was fouled. The oil flowed down one of the two main streets of the subdivision, so there will be that inconvenience for residents to deal with, too.

Inconvenience in the service of the oil industry… I bet those who scream about background checks being an inconvenience will have no problem with the way the small town of Mayflower will have to live until this mess is cleaned up. It’s going to be interesting when more pipelines – and bridges, freeways, train tracks, dams, etc. – begin to crumble as they deteriorate. You wanna talk inconvenience?! We need to start fixing this problem immediately and we can if Congress would okay the plan to hire the unemployed to fix our infrastructure. It’s an elegantly simple solution. But the deficit and debt are the only things they seem to have any interest in. However, neither of those will matter to our children and grandchildren if there is no decent infrastructure. It frustrates the hell out of me, not to mention every young person I’ve spoken to. Infrastructure is important. It will cost so much more – both in money and lives and the environment – if we ignore it.

Photobucket      T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…