Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Exxon Tar Sands Spill Continues to Devastate Arkansas Community

Estimates of spilled oil "growing exponentially every day"

Lauren McCauley

The thousands of barrels of tar sands oil which poured from a ruptured crude oil pipeline on Friday continue to devastate both man and beast alike in the community of Mayflower, Arkansas.

Though the exact amount of spilled oil remains unknown, as the National Wildlife Federation writes, "just as we saw in the early days of BP’s Gulf oil disaster, the number is growing exponentially each day."

“Exxon Mobil officials said the total amount of water and oil pumped out of a Mayflower subdivision nearly tripled Sunday, reaching 12,000 barrels, or 504,000 gallons, compared with estimates on Saturday that crews had pumped 4,500 barrels,” reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Monday morning.

Though the cleaning crews have reportedly removed most of the freestanding oil which covered the neighborhood streets, local news station KATV touring the area on Sunday, said that removing the crude from individual's backyards promises to be "a much more challenging project to take on."

"This is going to be an extensive and long cleanup," said onsite EPA coordinator Nicolas Brescia. "Right now, the goal is to pick up as much free product as they can." He added, "I can't tell you how long it's going to take to clean up all the impacted areas."

"The Mayflower tar sands spill is yet another demonstration of the risks that tar sands pipelines pose to the communities and sensitive water resources they cross," writes Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council, adding that the spill is also a warning of "the potential costs of the tar sands industry’s reckless expansion plans."

Environmentalists are pointing to the Mayflower rupture as further evidence that the authorization of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would pose "significant risk" to our communities and ecosystems.

"We'd be wise to think about this as one more sad warning," said founder Bill McKibben, in a statement responding to the spill. "What the people of Arkansas are enduring today is a reminder of why approving KXL, a pipeline ten times as large and running across the Oglalla Aquifer, defines a bad idea."

The greatest priority in the Mayflower clean up still appears to be preventing the oil from traveling through the community's storm drain system to Lake Conway, a large man made recreation reservoir stocked with bass, catfish, bream and crappie. The National Wildlife Federation reports that local authorities built several earthen dams to try to prevent the tar sands oil from reaching the lake, "but if the water is fouled," they said, "it won’t just threaten the fish, it will threaten the area’s recreation economy."

Local animal wildlife rehabilitation clinic, the HAWK center, posted images on their facebook page of recovered birds coated with the thick, black tar.

"We anticipate a LOT more patients today," they write.

As of Sunday evening, officials from neither the town or the energy giant behind the spill were able to provide answers to the 22 evacuated households as to when they would be able to return home or why the spill occurred. An investigation is reportedly underway. 


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·

Progressives Issue Dire Warning as House Bill to Extend Eviction Moratorium Dies

"If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities, needlessly contributing to more death and destruction."

Brett Wilkins ·

Citing Donziger Case, Dems Raise Alarm About Use of Private Prosecutors in Federal Court

Private prosecutions of criminal contempt charges, said a pair of senators, "are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system."

Jessica Corbett ·

'About Damn Time': DOJ Says Treasury Department Must Give Trump's Tax Returns to Congress

"This case is now bigger even than Donald Trump's crimes. Neither the courts, nor the machinery of our government, exist to bodyguard a corrupt private citizen from transparency."

Jake Johnson ·

'Just Say That the Election Was Corrupt,' Trump Told DOJ in December

"It was a failed coup. Call it what it was. It didn't work! But they sure as hell tried."

Kenny Stancil ·