Deep in the cove area between Interstate Drive and Lake Conway where brush has been removed and fresh boom was awaiting placement in the water, Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson scraped a square on the dirt surface of the ground with his foot.
"There’s no telling how many manpower hours went into that spot," he said, pointing the square, referring to the cleanup efforts after the ExxonMobil oil spill.
The cleanup after the Pegasus Pipeline burst and sent barrels of oil into the Mayflower community are moving along, Dodson said during an exclusive tour he gave of the affected area to Log Cabin reporters.
Some places, such as the cove, have officially moved from the emergency response stage to remediation. At that point, jurisdiction is transferred from the Unified Command, comprised of local, state, federal and ExxonMobil representatives, directly to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
In the cove, this remediation has included a hydromarsh prescribed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that established flowers and grasses in the area dredge during the oil excavation.
"Eventually it will go back to the way it was," Dodson said. "Right now, we got that down for sediment control."
In order to remove the oil that seeped into the cove and encroached upon the main area of the lake, Dodson said crews had to remove brush, vines and weeds but tried to leave as many trees as possible.
"There’s always a balance to how much you take and how much you leave for remediation," he said.
The Northwoods subdivision, which was the location of the split in the Pegasus Pipeline, is still in the emergency recovery phase. Dodson said the Unified Command is working toward an agreement on establishing "triggers" that would move the neighborhood into remediation. This is a more difficult and technical process than other areas, such as the ditches and cove that have already moved to remediation because it is a residential neighborhood, he said.
Currently, workers are patching up areas of the road in Northwoods where heavy equipment has caused damage. Later on, the roads will be resurfaced to provide a permanent replacement.
Additionally, the curb and disturbed mailboxes along North Starlite Road have been replaced.
As of Wednesday, none of the evacuated homeowners have moved back to the neighborhood. Some homes in the neighborhood are still undergoing air quality testing.
Dodson said one improvement has been the opening of North Starlite Road to the public. Until recently, only workers and equipment were allowed in that portion of the neighborhood.
There are fewer workers than there were at the beginning of the oil spill response, but Dodson said he does not want the community to think Mayflower is being abandoned.
Instead of keeping around more workers than needed, Dodson said ExxonMobil decided to keep what he called "the appropriate number of people" to get the job done.
"This is what you’re going to see for months," he said about the work.
The necessary workers and contractors could be in the area for a year, Dodson estimated, in order to continue moving the impacted area to and through remediation.
(Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached by email at email@example.com 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)