Major Oil Spill in Suburbia Shows Risk of Pipelines

By Janelle Tupper 4-01-2013
Photo by Minale Tattersfield Roadside Retail /
Photo by Minale Tattersfield Roadside Retail /

Residents of Mayflower, Ark., spent Easter weekend evacuated from their homes as Exxon Mobil attended to a major oil spill from a crude oil pipeline. Residents described scenes of oil running down the streets like a river, as 22 families were forced to leave their homes.

Since the pipe burst on Friday afternoon, cleanup crews have collected around 12,000 barrels of oil and water. Images from the weekend show quiet cul-de-sacs inundated with thick, black sludge, and parents reported concern for their children and whether they would be able to play outside.

The oil comes from the Pegasus pipeline, which carries crude oil from Illinois to the Gulf Coast of Texas. Witnesses said that the oil spilled for more than 45 minutes on Friday, leaving a foul-smelling sludge.

The spill could have been worse had it not been diverted from hitting a local lake. Crude oil is denser than other oil, which makes it much more difficult to remove from bodies of water if it hits.

That’s the thing about pipelines – they aren’t spill-proof.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline puts much of the Midwest at risk of an oil spill, sitting on aquifers that are a major source of irrigation water. In spite of this, the State Department recently released a report that says the Keystone pipeline is environmentally sound.

Everyday stories of oil spills show us that there is no such thing as a safe pipeline. Tell the State Department to take a second look at their data.

Janelle Tupper is Campaigns Assistant for Sojourners. 

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