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Rivers of oil in Arkansas town: Many ‘didn’t even know’ Exxon pipeline ran under their homes

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Residents of Mayflower, Arkansas are shocked, frustrated and discouraged after an ExxonMobil oil pipeline – which many were unaware existed – burst, devastating the small town by flooding its streets with thousands of barrels of Canadian crude.

ExxonMobil is cleaning up the town after an oil pipeline spilled thousands of oil all over its streets. The company’s Pegasus pipeline – which can carry more than 90,000 barrels of Canadian Heavy crude oil per day from Patoka, Illinois, to Nederland, Texas – was shut down after the leak was discovered on Friday in a suburban area near the Arkansas town of Mayflower.

“A lot of people weren’t even aware that the pipeline ran through the area,” resident Chris Harrell told RT.

Twenty-two houses have reportedly been evacuated as locals wait for the green light to return home. “The major concern for many in our neighborhood is the long-term impact from the spill, both environmentally and financially. For example, what’s this going to do to our property values?” Harrell said.

Harrell spoke to RT about the effects of the pipeline accident, and how residents are coping with the massive spill.

RT: We understand you live in a subdivision affected by the oil spill. Can you explain the situation to us?

Chris Harrell: The leak occurred around 3:00pm Friday afternoon Central Standard Time. I was only allowed into the neighborhood because my wife and children were still in our home. We packed their bags and sent them to her parents’ house, and I stayed in our home in the subdivision. The actual leak occurred on the street directly behind my house and flowed down. Those streets were the only ones that experienced forced evacuation. The rest of the neighborhood was advised to evacuate. Friday afternoon was quite chaotic – a lot of local state and federal officials in and out of the neighborhood trying to assess the situation and determine the best course of action.

RT: Twenty-two homes have been evacuated so far. How are people in the area dealing with the spill?

CH: Most of the people in the 22 homes that were evacuated are staying in local hotels. My neighbor directly behind me was forced to leave Friday afternoon, and was only allowed to come back to his home for 20 minutes to pack enough belongings for the next week. My family and I are allowed to be in our house a week. We are staying there now. However, there is a police checkpoint at the entrance to our subdivision – we have to show ID and be logged in and out to show who is in the neighborhood.

This is a precaution to avoid any potential looting, and also to keep track of any accidents that may occur during the cleanup. The smell is quite horrendous outside and especially in our home. There is a very strong smell of oil in our vehicles. It’s quite an inconvenience to get in and out of the neighborhood. There are a lot of vehicles parked there, a lot of machinery, a lot of equipment. The street behind us is completely lit up at night. Crews are going 24 hours, it’s a lot of noise.

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