Several residents posted Facebook photographs and online videos of the oil pooling in yards and streets.
Allen Dodson, a Faulkner County judge and one of three unified incident commanders responding to the spill, said in an interview that oil mostly affected five or six yards and that the “smell had gone down dramatically.”
Jeffers said that the company received phone calls from people in the area at the same time its pipeline monitors in Houston noticed a drop in pressure in the line. The pipeline is buried about two feet deep in the Mayflower area, he said. Exxon Mobil said responders were on the scene within half an hour. Approximately 120 Exxon Mobil workers are responding to the incident in addition to federal, state and local officials and workers.
Exxon Mobil said that fumes from the oil spill posed a risk in “high pooling areas,” where oil could be seen on the ground and where crews were working with safety equipment.
The company said the cause of the spill is under investigation.
The Arkansas spill came just four days after the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration proposed fining Exxon Mobil $1.7 million for a July 2011 spill in Montana’s Yellowstone River. In that incident, Exxon Mobil’s 12-inch Silvertip Pipeline spilled 1,509 barrels of crude oil into the Yellowstone River near Laurel, Mont., during flooding.
The agency is alleging that Exxon Mobil did not properly address known seasonal flooding risks to the safety of its pipeline, including erosion of riverbeds that could leave pipelines exposed to damage from debris flowing downstream. The agency also said Exxon Mobil did not implement measures that would have mitigated a spill into a waterway.
Exxon Mobil has contended that the unusually large fine — possibly the result of a doubling of civil penalties under the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Job Creation Act of 2011 signed into law last year by Obama — contradicted a report that said the company took “reasonable precautions.” The new ceiling is $2 million. The company said it spent about $100 million cleaning up damage from the spill.
The Arkansas incident also comes just a few days after a Canadian Pacific Railroad train carrying oil sands crude — a mixture of heavy bitumen and lighter dilutents — from Alberta to Chicago derailed near Parkers Prairie, Minn., spilling about 357 barrels.
That accident drew attention because the State Department’s new environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL said that if the pipeline were blocked, oil sands crude would still be able to reach markets via railroads, which carry more than 1 million barrels a day of oil in the United States. Supporters of the pipeline say that shipping oil by pipeline would be safer and more fuel efficient than doing so by rail.