Arkansas residents continue to suffer one year after Exxon oil spill

Friday, February 14, 2014 by: L.J. Devon, Staff Writer
Tags: oil spill, ExxonMobil, Arkansas

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(NaturalNews) Residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, have been sick, coughing and with chronic headaches. Many are leaving their neighborhood and moving somewhere safer.

When one of ExxonMobil's pipeline's burst about a year ago, a major oil spill overtook their community. Oil poured through the streets and onto the lawns. Large cleanup operations came in to help, but the environmental damage remains, affecting the health of nearby homeowners.

Health officials report that the area is safe - residents feel otherwise

Today, environmental officials tell the residents that it's safe to stay, but residents feel very different, as they continue to show illness, dizziness, headaches and nausea as a result of the oil spill's toxic environmental effects. Exxon representatives and state and federal EPA workers say the area is safe, but the the property owners feel differently, sickened and invaded.

It was nearly a year ago, March 29, 2013, when the Pegasus pipeline burst, pouring thousands of barrels of Canadian crude oil into the suburban Mayflower, Arkansas, area. The pipeline rupture caused the evacuation of 20 homes. Today, residents who cannot afford to leave are suffering from chronic health problems.

The serene suburban area was once a nice place to raise a family. After the spill, it has become a toxic oil wasteland, reeking with the stench of oil.

One resident, Ann Jarrell, said, "If it rained, I could not stay here, because it would all seep up, the oil, again. Where the ground was dry, it would kind of encase it, and then when it rained, all those vapors would come back again." She reports of constant headaches and coughing and hopes to move.

"I have friends that live just behind me that are still here. They don't have a place to go. They have small children... and they're all sick," says Jarrell. "There are a lot of us who have been forgotten. We're just collateral damage."

For Sale signs dot the area, while no one is coming to buy. "I would say that the number of homes sold in Mayflower has dropped by at least 50 to 60 percent," real estate agent Richard Henley said.

The true concern in this matter is Exxon's absolute disregard for the injured residents' property and personal health. No one is holding Exxon accountable for the disturbing damage that occurred and is occurring in residents' health and property. Just because an executive government entity like the EPA says the area is safe does not mean that the injured people have been compensated for their loss of health and property.

Oil spills are more common than people think and can go unnoticed

Furthermore, this spill is not uncommon. In fact, its estimated that US pipelines spill an average of 3.1 million gallons or more of hazardous petroleum fluids each year into the environment. This not only destroys surrounding soil quality but further compromises the health of individuals everywhere, living, breathing and eating from and near contaminated grounds.

Spills like this spark debate on new pipeline projects, most notably, the Keystone XL project. The Keystone XL project is set to carry tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, through the US down to Texas refineries. Studies show that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are found in the Alberta tar sands, pose a serious danger to humans and the ecosystem. Recently, an alliance of Native American communities got together, promising to block construction of the northern leg of the Keystone pipeline.

As pipelines like this traverse through multiple properties, they become an environmental concern for those who live around its path. People feel that they become just collateral damage to the big oil companies, as the pipeline projects meander through their area without them even knowing. Residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, had no clue of the pipeline and were taken off guard when the oil began pouring into the streets.

As the residents of Mayflower struggle to cope with their oil-bleeding land and ails, big oil brushes the matter aside, moving on to their next project.

There has got to be a better way.

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