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Oil Pollution in Arkansas


On March 29, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying oil from Canadian tar sands ruptured in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, northwest of Little Rock. Between 5000 and 7000 barrels of oil spilled into nearby waterways.

ExxonMobil and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality claim everything is safe for residents. But the residents’ own bodies tell them this is not true:

“I could smell that horrible smell. I got really scared,”says Sherry Appleman, who awoke to a nightmare on March 29. As the Exxon Tar Sands oil flowed through their town, residents of Mayflower reported strong odors that lead to headaches and vomiting in areas that Exxon deemed safe and not in need of evacuation. Some of residents, like Scott Crowe, were deemed safe to remain in their homes where a mere 300 yards from the rupture site. They say they haven’t heard from city officials or Exxon, but have experienced headaches, stomach pains, nausea, fainting, and have been prescribed inhalers for the first time.

Ann Jarrell reports that she stayed at home with her daughter and a 3 month old grandchild despite the smells because they were told they didn’t need to evacuate and were safe. Ann Jarrell is a beekeeper and found dead, oil-soaked bees on her porch. The state plant board agreed to evacuate her bees to a safe location, but deemed the situation safe enough for Jarell’s family. They later learned it was likely they’d been exposed to toxic chemical fumes, and are now suffering from breathing problems and have been placed on inhalers.

A local elementary school outside the evacuation zone had to send home eight students who became ill after breathing petrochemical fumes. Although Exxon had determined the air around the school safe, residents, including school officials, reported strong odors of oil in and around the building. These are just a handful of disturbing examples of illness in Mayflower after the oil spill. One Mayflower resident, despite being able to see the leak from her home, was told by Exxon that residents were merely suffering allergies. Some of the residents affected by the spill have filed a class action lawsuit.

It’s in the interest of both the company and a state who desires to serve corporations to deny any real problems are taking place. At the very least, the company should have to pay for long-term testing and be held financially responsible for any health problems that result from oil exposure. I guess this is what the class-action suit is for, but it would be better if residents didn’t have to come to this. Not surprisingly, ExxonMobil has tried to cover up the extent of the problem.

In the world of petroleum, this is an everyday event. It usually doesn’t happen in the United States, although it certainly has in the past. Normally, it is Nigerians, Venezuelans, Indonesians, and the immigrants who work the refineries in the Arabian Peninsula who suffer from direct exposure to the oil industry. But with the future of tar sands pipelines, Americans will suffer direct exposure more frequently.

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  • LittlePig

    I was driving by Mayflower the next morning – the smell was unbelievable, and that was just trying by on the interstate (I-40). Couldn’t really tell as I drove by yesterday because they were melting tar there for reasons known only to God.

    The county police have pretty much become Exxon Enforcers since the accident, helping keep those pesky reporters away. Another step on the way to a corporate security force for the United States of ExxonMobil.

    • Mean Mister Mustard

      Cue the video showing the rapid response time and commensurate concern for the community.

      Get ready to be Keystoned.

    • Jame

      That the county police are protecting corporate interests isn’t all that surprising. The same thing happened in Louisiana during the BP spill.

  • cpinva

    clearly, those residents named are just shilling for a huge payout from exxonmobile, after they file their tawdry lawsuits.

  • We live in two separate countries.

    One, at least gives the appearance of some semblance of caring about others.
    The other, doesn’t give a Hershey-squirt sh*t about anyone – until it’s them and theirs, that are affected.

    I hate to say this, but, the folks down in Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, etc., get the government they vote for.
    And if that’s a government that takes impeccable care of its corporate “citizens,” while letting its human citizens die of treatable diseases, or suffer from hunger and malnutrition, or get sick from the effects of pollution, or don’t think educating children is a priority, well then, THAT, after all, is what YOU voted for!

    And then, I remember that not everybody in those states is a socipathic red-necked Jesus-freak cracker, and I feel bad.

    So, stop making me feel bad for you, Red Stater’s, because more of your citizens vote for corrupt right-wing politicians, than for good government.
    ‘Edumacate’ them, or something – if, that is, they’re ‘edumacateable.’

    Yeah, yeah, I know.
    There’s a black Muslim woman wanting to abort the baby she’s carrying for her Gay Mexican lover, and she says “Happy Holidays,” instead of acknowledging Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, by saying “Merry Christmas.”
    “She’s a WITCH! BURN HER!!!”

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    “in areas that *exxon* (emphasis mine) deemed safe”

    they don’t even bother to put on a “state department of natural resources” puppet show

    well, *somebody* is getting the government they pay for

    • firefall

      That function got privatised years ago, to … ah … Exxon

  • Mike G

    They can’t be bothered listening to your reasoned arguments for a more responsive and less whorish government, because they’re waiting for Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to tell them whether the abortionists or the gays are the designated scapegoat to blame for all of this.

    • Yup.
      And cleaning their guns, so they can shoot the gay abortionists who are sure to target their home!

      • Ann Outhouse

        This might be a little harsh.

        The problem is that they don’t see how voting for Democrats is going to make their lives any better. And in the case of Arkansas Democrats, they’re right.

        So they might as well vote on the social issues.

  • Time to start recalls against the mayor, the town council, the county board and more. Start small.

  • shah8
  • jkay

    You’re forgetting about Texans and Louisianans in your toll – sad when you only lived here…. I’d add that most Texans and Louisianans feel oil’s worth it to not be stuck in unpaying, worst-treating agriculture.

    And I think most of we southern Democrats are more inclined to supervise pipeline building right and help people better when there’s a spill rather than being an oil industry puppet.

    Agriculture’s the very WORST industry you be in by far. It has the worst pay and worst hours and conditions. But just the BP-related damage alone has been totally terrible. Who cares about us, we’re just colonies whom ran away….

    Sorry about that spill, locals on the thread.

  • Svensker

    Sickening article. We are fighting running an oil sands pipeline across the northern edge of Toronto that crosses EVERY water source for the city.

    BUT please don’t call this “oil” or an “oil spill.” It isn’t. This is not oil, but a thick tarry sand that needs toxic chemicals to be liquid enough to be pumped through pipes. The combination of toxic chemicals and sand corrode pipes much more quickly than actual oil does.

    The stuff is NOT oil, it is bitumen. And one of the ways to get folks to realize it’s not just a regular old “oil” pipeline is to not call it oil. Oil isn’t that scary.

  • Watusie

    Remember folks: the ground in Oklahoma can support storm shelters. Therefore, maybe it also isn’t appropriate for a new tar sands pipeline as well.

  • Mart

    Please Google Enbridge + Projects. Met a man at Holiday Inn Quincy building two thirty six inch pipelines from Flanagan IL to Cushing, OK – where Keystone is to join. Among other things, these will cross the Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. Enbridge is building now all over the country, I think Enbridge needs way more scrutiny than just Keystone. (Flanagan currently pumps tar sand and shale oil to the Illinois side of St. Louis to convert to gas for US consumption. Want to get to Gulf and East and West Coast port refineries to get the gas to China.)

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