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Activists claim Arkansas oil spill diverted into wetland

By Stephen C. Webster
Sunday, April 7, 2013 16:59 EDT
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A man examines oil on his hand at the site of an Exxon pipeline rupture in Arkansas. Photo: Flickr user Tar Sands Blockade, creative commons licensed.
 
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Activists with the group Tar Sands Blockade published new videos on Sunday showing oil from the Arkansas pipeline rupture purportedly diverted from a residential neighborhood into a wetland area to keep it out sight and, most importantly, out of the media.

While it’s not clear if the oil was intentionally moved into the wetland, the company says it is cleaning pavement with power washing devices, which could cause some of the oil to be pushed off neighborhood streets and into other areas.

Activists also interviewed a local resident who claimed the oil has continued “flowing” into Lake Conway since the spill happened.

A letter sent by ExxonMobil to residents of Mayflower on March 31 claims the oil did not reach Lake Conway.

“I don’t have allergies,” a man who lives on Lake Conway told tar sands activists. “But now my sinuses are bothering me. My throat’s bothering me. My eyes water constantly. But they [Exxon] act like nothing’s wrong. They don’t have to live here, we do. And we’re not moving just because of them.”

The activists noted that they were turned away from the area several times before by police and Exxon spill cleanup workers, but they returned on Saturday just before sundown and managed to sneak in to capture footage of the oiled wetlands. In two separate videos, nearby residents say they’ve been made sick my the spill, which has tremendously affected their air quality.

This footage has largely remained out of the media due to the lockdown that’s descended upon Mayflower nearly a week since the spill. Reporters touring the damage with Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel were allegedly turned away by Exxon workers. One journalist, InsideClimate News’s Susan White, was even threatened with arrest when she asked a question of Exxon’s “public affairs” desk inside the spill cleanup command center. The company has also secured a no-fly zone over the spill area.

Video of Lake Conway’s wetlands shows thousands of what Exxon called “absorbent pads” — which appear to be nothing more than paper towels — littering the blackened landscape as thick, soupy crude bubbles across the water’s surface. The company insists that air quality in the affected region is being measured by the Environmental Protection Agency, and that tests show “levels that are either non-detect or that are below any necessary action levels.” Exxon also says that the area’s drinking water remains unaffected.

A phone number given by Exxon to reach the company’s “downstream media relations” team did not appear to be correct, and a spokesperson was not available for comment.

This video was published to YouTube on April 6, 2013.


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Photo: Flickr user Tar Sands Blockade, creative commons licensed.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
 
 
 
 
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