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Judge praises oil spill response

By Tammy Keith

This article was originally published April 4, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. Updated April 3, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.


Mayflower Street Superintendent Jimmy Johnson, left, oversees Mayflower Water Department employee Brad Lawrence as he works Friday on a retention pond on Highway 89 in Mayflower, following a nearby crude-oil spill. Culverts were plugged to keep oil from entering Lake Conway, and dikes were built Friday shortly after authorities were alerted to an Exxon Mobil underground pipeline that ruptured at Shade Tree Lane and North Starlite Road in the Northwoods subdivision, less than a mile from Lake Conway. Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said workers are vacuuming water and oil from ditches and yards and placing the mixture into “frac tanks.”

Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson was tired but happy Monday night after dealing with national and local media who are following the Mayflower oil spill.

Even with little sleep three days after a pipeline ruptured, allowing crude oil to escape, he was in good spirits.

“I’m a spring chicken,” he said Monday, driving home from the command center.

“Many people interested can’t believe we kept the oil out of the lake locally in that initial period. I’m so relieved,” he said.

“We successfully fought that. We had an amazing win, locally preventing that from being in the lake,” Dodson said. “ We had a 20-inch pipeline, nine-tenths of a mile from Lake Conway, so you do the math.”

Although some media reported oil got into Lake Conway, officially named the Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir, Dodson and others said Monday that wasn’t true.

“We built dikes, a number of them,” he said, that prevented the oil from reaching the lake.

“Our road department and OEM (Office of Emergency Management) and the Mayflower Fire Department, police and some of their city employees … built the dikes that kept it out of the lake.”

He said Faulkner County officials were told by state and federal authorities that “it’s one of the best responses they’ve ever seen.”

An official of the Exxon Mobil Corp., who asked that his name not be used, said buoys were put in Lake Conway as a “preventive measure. Just because we have buoys in the lake, people say, ‘Oh, it’s done got out there,’” he said.

“No, it’s not in Lake Conway. Game wardens are all over that,” he said.

Dodson said oil from an Exxon Mobil underground pipeline in the Northwoods subdivision in Mayflower just started coming up through the grass on Friday.

As soon as emergency personnel were alerted, a plan went into action, he said.

Exxon Mobil officials were quickly on the scene, he said, and brought in at least 120 people. That number doesn’t include federal, local and state officials.

Dodson said he is one of four people, including one from Exxon Mobil, who make up the Mayflower Incident Unified Command.

His title is local on-scene commander.

“We approve plans, objectives, everything that happens,” he said.

The Incident Action Plan, specifically created for the Mayflower oil spill, is about “a quarter-inch thick,” he said.

“A multimillion-dollar business was created in three days. It’s really amazing how quickly and cleanly this amped up,” he said.

“Exxon is going to great lengths to do right,” he said. “I mean at every turn. I haven’t seen them hold back to do anything that was necessary or advisable because cost is an issue.”

A teller at the Centennial Bank branch connected to Harps in the shopping center near the spill said an Exxon Mobil employee came in first thing Monday morning.

He asked if the company could put a message on the electronic sign in the parking lot, which bank employees did.

“Thank you for your help and patience, Mayflower. Oil spill cleanup will continue until job is done.” It gave an 800 number for claims: (800) 876-9291.

Twenty-two homes in the neighborhood were evacuated, and a community meeting was held Saturday to answer residents’ questions.

“People at that community meeting said they’d been getting inconsistent messages. … Of course, there’s going to be confusion, mixed messages, even within the same organization,” Dodson said. “I understand people are going to be frustrated if they’re impacted. It’s also fair to say, ‘Really? We’re at the community meeting, less than 24 hours after it happened.’

“We not only prevented the oil from getting to the lake; [we] ramped up an organization, had time to plan and begin a community meeting less than 24 hours when [thousands of] barrels of oil had spilled from a 20-inch pipeline,” he said.

Dodson said it will be “weeks for the major cleanup, months to get the entire thing cleaned up — all the dirty dirt, twigs and leaves everywhere.”

It began raining Tuesday after Dodson was interviewed.

“We’ll fight it,” he said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or


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Citizen_6900 says... April 4, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.

I hope you're correct that oil has so far been kept out of the reservoir.
However, oil gets into the ground and flows underground to the lowest point - which will be the reservoir.
You need to get the public water treatment facilities to test for mercury, arsenic, benzene and naphatha (carcinogenic), xylene (banned from semiconductor industry in 1980s because it causes miscarriages), and toluene.
These contaminants are not normally tested for at water treatment facilities, and there is no good cheap way to remove them from drinking water once a reservoir is
contaminated. Moreover, arsenic and mercury will sink to the bottom of the reservoir and slowly leach out for 50 years or more, making the water unsafe.
Public water treatment facilities need to test the water every week for at least one year, then every month for five years. If any of these contaminants gets into a public water supply, you will have a major disaster.

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