This is what it’s like to live in an oil industry disaster

by Jesse Coleman

June 26, 2013

Eilish Palmer, a volunteer with HAWK (Helping Arkansas' Wild Kritters) holds out her finger coated in thick black oil collected from a marshy area that backs up to a residential area in Mayflower, Arkansas on April 5, 2013, a week after a pipeline rupture. Exxon's Pegasus pipeline, which can carry more than 90,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from Patoka, Illinois to Nederland, Texas, was shut down March 29, 2013 after a leak was discovered late in the afternoon in a subdivision near the town of Mayflower, Arkansas. The leak forced the evacuation of 22 homes. Exxon had no specific estimate of how much crude oil had spilled, but the company said 12,000 barrels of oil and water had been recovered. The company did not say how much of the total was oil and how much was water. Greenpeace Photo by Karen McCall

©Karen McCall/Greenpeace

On March 29, ExxonMobil spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil in the small town of Mayflower, Arkansas. Exxon, the most profitable corporation in history, has yet to account for more than 126,000 gallons of the spilled oil. Now, months after the spill, dangerous contaminants are being detected in the air, water and soil, and residents are getting sick - while Exxon claims the air and water are safe. Listen to these stories of Mayflower residents affected by the oil industry: Exxons response has been typical of the oil industry. Like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Enbridge disaster in the Kalamazoo River, Exxon has stifled reporting and downplayed the damage and public health issues caused by their pipeline rupture. Immediately after the spill Exxon sought to shut down reporting and information gathering by cordoning off the area, convincing the FAA to declare a no fly zone over the spill site, even threatening journalists with arrest. Documents obtained by Greenpeace revealed Exxon also misrepresented the extent of the contamination in nearby Lake Conway. Exxon claimed the area was oil-free, though their own water tests showed dangerously elevated levels of cancer causing chemicals associated with tar sands crude oil. Exxons Mayflower spill is a reminder of who bears the risks of fossil fuel development like the Keystone XL pipeline. While Exxon may have to shell out a few million dollars of their more than 44 billion dollars in profit, the residents of Mayflower must now live in a contaminated environment and many families will never be able to go back to their homes. Like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Exxons pipeline was carrying tar sands oil from Canada, which is both particularly corrosive to pipelines and environmentally devastating to mine and refine. Sign here if you want to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and other dangerous, unnecessary fossil fuel developments.
Jesse Coleman

By Jesse Coleman

Jesse Coleman is a researcher with the Greenpeace Investigations team. His focus is on front groups, fracking, and the oil and gas industry. Jesse's work has been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, The Colbert Report, Al-Jazeera, MSNBC, and NPR.

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