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 firstname.lastname@example.org.