Efforts to clean up more than 1,000 barrels of oil that spilled from a ruptured pipeline in Mayflower are continuing Saturday with crews working to prevent it from reaching nearby Lake Conway.
Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson said the Environmental Protection Agency estimates between 1,000 and 2,000 barrels of oil spilled when the line ruptured near Starlight Road North in Mayflower about 2:45 p.m. Friday. Exxon said in a statement that company officials observed "a few thousand" barrels worth of spilled oil in the area. A barrel holds 42 gallons.
No one was injured, but about 22 homes in the Northwood subdivision area were evacuated. Dodson said it would be a "number of days" before those residents were allowed to return to stay.
Numerous crews were working Saturday to clean up the spill and to prevent it from reaching the lake. Dodson said he is "pretty confident" the oil won't reach the lake, but it takes work.
"That's an ongoing battle," he said by phone from the scene of the spill late Saturday morning. "The rain hinders us in terms of our ability to work and in terms of the water flow."
Dodson said the "multilayered defense" included remediation crews in the neighborhood, more than 100 workers from Exxon Mobil Corp., which owns the pipeline, and 15 large vacuum trucks.
Exxon said in its statement that officials were conducting continuous air monitoring in the area.
"The air quality does not present a human health risk, with the exception of the high pooling areas, where clean-up crews are working with safety equipment," the statement said.
The company and Dodson said it's still unclear what caused the underground pipeline to burst.
"It's just really too early to speculate," Dodson said. "I think Exxon has said that it's too early for them to go and open up the dirt and look. That may take some time to determine."
Dodson credited the company with a strong response. He said Exxon has brought in enough crews to clean up a spill five times as large and also has "very high level executives" on site.
"I can't say enough about how they've responded," Dodson said. "Of course they're very regretful."
A claims hotline number has been set up at (800) 876-9291 to assist area residents affected by the spill. Adjusters are also on site, Exxon said.