As the cleanup of the March 29 ExxonMobil spill in Arkansas continues, eyewitness reports of environmental and public health consequences are beginning to emerge – despite notable near-silence from the oil giant and local authorities on the matter.
Only a week ago, an elementary school in the area sent home eight students after they began displaying symptoms of having inhaled petrochemical fumes.
Several eyewitness accounts shared with environmental groups report events so far unexplained by ExxonMobil, including workers netting dead fish from nearby Lake Conway, and reports that cleanup workers during the day seem to wear minimal protection to toxins, but are seen wearing full protective suits at night.
According to April Lane of the Faulkner County Concerned Citizens Advisory Group, levels of toxic chemicals released by the heavy crude spill are not being properly monitored, recorded or reported.
“A lot of the released chemicals – benzene, hydrogen sulfide, toluene – are still extremely toxic, especially to children, the elderly and pregnant women, at very low levels,” said Lane.
Local resident Sherry Appleman, who recently spoke with the Huffington Post and lives on Lake Conway, a mile from her evacuated home, has been experiencing breathing issues, headaches and burning in her nose and eyes.
Last Monday, Appleman saw three men in a boat equipped with electronics removing dead fish from the lake. When Appleman tried to ask the group what they were doing, they allegedly ignored her questions, instead focusing a spotlight on her while she tried to take photos with her phone.