One year has passed since the Pegasus Pipeline burst in a Mayflower neighborhood, spilling its oily contents into the community and threatening Lake Conway.
After the Good Friday disaster, ExxonMobil executives and specialists flooded the area. The Unified Command was formed of local, state, federal and ExxonMobil leadership and emergency response started.
Now that a year has passed, some in the town have returned to normal, but some still see a sheen of oil on top of Lake Conway, reminding them that things may not have gone back to the way they were. Others have left the town indefinitely, leaving behind their homes, belongings and memories for fear of adverse health effects.
At a press conference March 25 of this year, VP of ExxonMobil’s pipeline division Karen Tyrone said ExxonMobil has no concerns about ecological risk after looking at recent data.
"We have confirmation that there remains no ecological risk in the cove, in channels, in the neighborhood," she said. "All the testing supports that that worry does not exist and we can move forward beyond that."
In spite of those assurances, Tyrone said ExxonMobil is not done with their response to the spill.
"Just because there’s no ecological risk or health risk in the community, we realize that we are not done," she said. "We are very pleased with that response, but we have work to do."
That work will continue in the cove along with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, who have approved ExxonMobil’s plan to continue.
Not everyone in the community feels things are doing well, though. Ann Jarrell is one citizen who has moved out of her home located 250 yards from the spill and never plans to return.
"I will never be able to live in Mayflower again," she said. "They will never get it completely cleaned up."
Jarrell lived in her home with her daughter and 3-month-old grandson at the time of the oil spill. Jarrell had her daughter and grandson move out April 22 because of concerns about the health effects of the spill, but her grandson now needs to use two inhalers, has trouble breathing and sometimes chokes when he tries to drink.
Jarrell said she never received anything from ExxonMobil and was not allowed to attend meetings the company had with neighbors.
It has been more than seven months since Jarrell has lived in her home. She has been living with a friend in North Little Rock since August 20, paying for a home she does not feel safe to enter.
Her grandson is not the only one who has had health problems since the spill. Jarrell herself said she has had several health problems and just last Thursday picked up another medication to hopefully treat her symptoms.
"I am lucky enough to have doctors who have known me for many years and have seen the difference in my labs from before the oil spill and after," she said. Though they don’t know how to treat exposure to the chemicals, they have tried to address the symptoms Jarrell has experienced.
"No one knows what the long-term health effects are. To my grandson. To my daughter. To me," she said. "I’m just collateral damage."
At the March 24 press conference, Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said it was important to both be mindful of those who were impacted and take stock in what has been done in the last year.
"My goal as county judge is to make sure — I’m not a scientist — but what I want to know and be assured of and have been assured of and have every confidence that there’s not going to be a lasting effect," he said. "You can go eat fish out of that lake right now, much less a year down the road or five years down the road."
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1212. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)