(Photo: Max Seigle, THV 11)
MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) - It was a rough start to the Easter holiday weekend after an oil spill struck in Mayflower. Authorities said as many as 40 homes had to be evacuated Friday afternoon.
Mayflower Police Chief Robert Satkowski said that the evacuations will remain in effect over-night. The chief also stated that it's too early to say how much oil spilled, but crews have prevented it from getting into Lake Conway. That was a big concern all day; the work ahead will focus on clean-up around the affected areas in town.
"So that is a pipeline that has busted and has flooded the neighborhood," said THViewer Drew Barnes, who gave THV 11 video of the Northwoods subdivision in Mayflower Friday.
Authorities said it's a mess triggered by an Exxon Mobile crude oil pipeline that ruptured, spewing out oil Friday afternoon.
"The smell is unbelievable. I mean, look!" Barnes said as he shot the video of his neighborhood.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has been on scene with air monitors, going through the neighborhoods to determine if the air quality has been effected.
"A lot is all that I can estimate," Chief Satkowski said of the spilled oil. "It flowed from approximately 2:45p.m. when it was discovered by a homeowner to after 3 p.m. I want to say almost 3:30."
Chief Satkowski said it's not clear why the pipeline ruptured, but it was later shut off by Exxon.
The spill prompted evacuations as clean-up crews tackled some drainage areas in town where the oil flowed to. Along Highway 89 across from Lake Conway, crews sealed off two pipes under the road to keep oil from flowing from a city drainage pond into the lake.
"I'm just over here trying to make sure that we get it stopped before it gets into the lake because we'll have a real problem," Mayor Randy Holland said.
Mayor Randy Holland was also on the scene Friday where authorities did manage to keep the lake from any contamination, but it still turned the start of the holiday weekend upside down in Mayflower.
"Incredible and that is oil," Barnes said, as his camera rolled.
As for the residents who had to leave their homes, the police chief said he's not aware of any that requested shelter assistance, but he did say that Exxon Mobil has said the company will put folks up in a hotel if need be.
There's no official word yet on how long it will take to clean up the mess and when residents can return home.
THV 11 spoke via phone to Satkowski early Saturday morning for an update. He says that while cleanup continues, the rain is causing problems.
"It complicates from a manpower standpoint and it causes some of the cleanup material not to absorb as well," he says.
ExxonMobil said it's investigating the cause and working with local authorities in clean-up efforts. The company added that the breach was in a pipeline that originates in Illinois and carries crude oil to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Representatives with Conway Corporation posted a Facebook status that read, "Lake Conway is not Conway's water source. We get our water from Lake Brewer, located north of Plumerville in Conway County. The oil spill being reported does not impact Conway's water supply."
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