Monday, April 15, 2013

Exxon's response to Arkansas spill questioned; documents contradict company's timeline of reports

Exxon Mobil may have been slow in acting or responding to a pipeline rupture March 29 in Mayflower, Ark., that caused the evacuation of 22 homes and released between 200,000 and 420,000 gallons of oil, Katherine Bagley reports for Inside Climate News. The 65-year-old pipeline, which goes through four states, moves more than 90,000 barrels of crude oil over an 850-mile distance each day.

While Exxon said it shut down the pipeline within 16 minutes after the pressure drop was detected, there is some concern about the company's reported timeline of events, Bagley writes. The leak was first reported through a 911 call at 2:44 p.m., but local records show that it wasn't until 3:19 p.m., 35 minutes later, that Exxon made contact with local authorities, and Exxon arrived on the scene at 3:43 p.m., telling local officials the pipe needed to be shut off.

Exxon told the federal National Response Center that it saw a problem on the line at 1:15 p.m. when it spotted a drop in pressure, but didn't call the NRC until 4:06 p.m., Bagley reports. Two hours later Exxon filed a second report, reporting the time of the incident as 3:20 p.m. In a third report the next day, Exxon again reported the leak was discovered at 1:15 p.m. Exxon then reported on its blog that "it first detected a pressure drop in the line at 2:37 p.m. and initiated a full shutdown of the pipeline that was completed within 16 minutes" and that emergency response personnel arrived in Mayflower within 30 minutes, at 3:07 p.m., 36 minutes earlier than local emergency personnel reported their arrival. Exxon also claimed in one report that the leak was stopped at 6:20 p.m., but the EPA says it wasn't stopped until the next morning at 3 a.m., a fact Exxon confirmed on its blog April 10. (Read more)

We reported on the oil spill April 1. For updated coverage from the Log Cabin Democrat of Conway, click here. The site features an ad from Exxon Mobil touting "A message to Mayflower, Arkansas."

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