Genieve Long said she will never let her children eat what they catch in Lake Conway again. Long, who lives in Mayflower, said her children’s life has changed after the ExxonMobil Pegasus Pipeline ruptured two months ago.
"Unfortunately, my children’s normal way of life from fishing to hunting to playing in the mud to splashing through puddles of water is forever, forever gone," she said.
Long was one of four affected residents who spoke at the town hall meeting May 29 organized by Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group.
Damian Byers echoed the concern, saying his land was what he was planning to leave for his 16-month-old son. He also had plans of raising his son in the natural area Lake Conway offered, but does not see that as an option anymore.
"Now, I’m going to have to go out of my way to teach my young man here how to be an Arkansan," Byers said.
Scott Crow said he used to go to Lake Conway with his father with "Moonpies and drinks and crickets and we’d go fish."
"I can’t do that with my grandkids now," Crow said. "I can’t share that memory with them. And that upsets me."
Memories were not the only concerns shared by the residents. Health issues that started after the oil spill have caused problems, and their relation to the oil is unknown.
Crow said he and his wife have both had headaches and nausea, and Crow had a pass-out experience the week of the spill. His wife has to use an inhaler now and he has to take medicine for nausea.
"We’re still sick and nobody’s doing anything," he said. "Any doctors we go to, they don’t know what to do with it. They’ve never experienced this ... We’re pretty much at a standstill; we don’t know what to do with it."
Ann Jarrell said she was at home with her daughter and her three-month-old grandchild when the spill occurred. Once they smelled the oil, Jarrell’s daughter said they should leave. Jarrell called the Mayflower Police Department and was told she did not have to evacuate.
"‘That smell is just put in there so we know if the pipe breaks or something,’" she said she was told. "So we stayed."
She said her doctor scheduled an MRI because he could not figure out what was causing her sudden migraines, but she said as soon as she goes out of town for work her headaches go away.
Jarrell said she was not evacuated, but her bees were.
She is a beekeeper and a couple days after the spill she went to check on her two hives when she found the front porch of the hives covered in dead, oil-covered bees.
"I called the state plant board and they did an emergency evacuation of my bees," she said. "I stayed there, but my bees got moved to a safe distance away."