Mayflower clinic staff back after spill move

By Tammy Keith Originally Published May 9, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 8, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.
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Conway Regional Medical Center’s clinic in Mayflower is back in business at its location on Arkansas 365 after the smell of oil from the ruptured underground pipeline forced the clinic to temporarily move to Conway.

Mayflower Medical Clinic is immediately south of a ditch where oil was flowing after a leak March 29 in an Exxon underground pipeline in the Northwoods subdivision released more than 200,000 gallons of crude oil and caused 22 homes to be evacuated.

Lori Ross, corporate director of marketing/foundation for the Conway Regional Health System, said the smell was “nauseating,” and the staff had to leave early that day.

Angie Huselton, director of physician services for the health system, said the

Mayflower clinic started moving on Easter and opened April 1 in the Conway Medical Group building.

She said the Mayflower Medical Clinic’s parking lot was used by oil-cleanup crews for equipment, such as bulldozers, as well as portable toilets.

“Once the majority of the equipment was moved off the grounds and the odor was under control, the clinic moved back,” Huselton said.

Patients were seen again in Mayflower beginning April 22.

She said the air quality inside the clinic was tested by the Center for Toxicology and Environmental Health before the staff moved back in.

“We also diligently cleaned vents and got new air filters,” Huselton said.

Patients from several counties, including Faulkner, Pope, Cleburne, Conway and Pulaski, use the Mayflower Clinic, said Angela Foster, advanced-practice nurse.

Huselton said some patients didn’t want to make the trip to Conway during the relocation.

“Upon speaking to Exxon, they offered to provide free transportation from Mayflower to Conway Medical Group for needy patients; however, no one took them up on the offer,” she said.

Huselton said Dr. Blair Greenwood and Foster kept full schedules during the relocation.

Foster said that on the day of the spill, she and other employees noticed a smell “like methane gas or propane,” and she saw people in hazmat suits.

No one alerted the clinic’s staff to the spill or told them to evacuate, she said in an earlier interview.

The smell of oil has lessened, Huselton said.

“The majority of the time, the staff do not detect an odor. However, there has been a time or two when staff stated they smelled an odor outside,” she said.

Huselton said Exxon “has agreed to help us” with moving expenses, but she said those expenses are being finalized.

Hundreds of workers from Exxon and other companies have been in Mayflower since the spill, working 24 hours a day on the cleanup.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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