Rupture of Exxon tar sands pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands to Gulf for export sickens residents and journalists, kills wildlife, and contaminates 10-square-mile Lake Conway and Arkansas River

Update May 8: WKATV: Arkansas Attorney General reports high levels of carcinogens persisting in Mayflower air.

Rep. Markey, MA, sends letter to Exxon CEO asking for clarification of Exxon’s conflicting statements and claims.

Update, May 2: Rupture of same pipeline 200 miles north leaks tar sands in Missouri. 

Update: Independent study documents continuing high levels of toxics in Mayflower air. 4-29-13:  Community leader, April Lane, has been collecting health reports from residents since the pipeline rupture on March 29. Lane relayed that “even four weeks later, residents are still feeling symptoms from the chemical exposure. People have consistently talked about gastrointestinal problems, headaches, respiratory problems, skin irritation including chemical burns, and extreme fatigue.” These symptoms are consistent with exposure to the chemicals found in the independent air testing.  More…

And more at DeSmogBlog.

Update 4-23: Toxic materials from Exxon tar sands flood confirmed in Lake Conway.

Update 4-22: Check out images of the Canadian tar sands that creates this toxic brew and 475 million gallons of toxic waste a day (about nine times the amount of fuel).

Update 4-15: Arkansas Hires Notorious Private Contractor To Clean Up Mayflower Tar Sands Spill, Same Firm Also Contracted For KXL

Update 4-13: Unfiltered pumping of tar sands-contaminated water from the cove into the main body of Lake Conway during the Wednesday thunderstorm seen here. According to the article, Keith Stephens, of Ark. Fish and Game Commission, does not seem to know that tar sands sink. He said that the booms sitting on the lake would prevent movement of tar sands through the lake.  How much more insane can things get?! Where is the mainstream media? Why is it that only citizen journalists are documenting this tragedy and travesty of justice?

Insideclimatenews: Records now show that the pipeline was not shut off for more than an hour after the first 911 report of a spill. It may have taken that long for anyone to figure out that the spill was Exxon’s 65-year-old pipeline, which residents did not know underlay their community.

Update 4-12: Latest estimates are up to 420,000 gallons spilled.

Update 4-11: No respirators being provided for workers directly handling tar sands material. Exxon Pressures Arkansas TV Stations To Ban Critical Ad. Wednesday’s storm washes tar sands from lake into lakeshore residents’ yards.

Update 4-10: Ark. AG:  pipeline gash 22′ long, 2″ wide, much larger than previously thought. Exxon no-fly zone still in place

Update 4-9-13: Apparently Exxon is trying to deny both that the spill is tar sands and that they are not paying tax on it into clean-up fund. Both lies debunked.  Estimate of up to 300,000 gallons spilled; more on lack of protective gear, new smells reported by residents: update.

And some humor from Heavy Crude Video:

Update 4-8-13: Exxon has power-washed its equipment into storm drains feeding a wetland adjoining Lake Conway and covered it with paper towels (note correction from earlier post):

See interviews with area residents sickened by the spill and more images at and explanations of connectivity of cove, lake, and Arkansas River. More on the inherent risks of tar sands pipelines at

Update 4-5-13: Media threatened with arrest for visiting command center in attempt to speak to federal authorities. EPA estimates 4,000-7,000 barrels or up to 294,000 gallons were spilled.

Update: 4-4-13: Exxon has made the spill area a press blackout zone. Exxon officials are in charge. The spill has reached coves of Lake Conway (aerial footage from Monday here). There is now a no-fly zone over the area so aerial photography can not be updated. Nearby residents  who were not evacuated or yet contacted by Exxon are experiencing vomiting, headaches, and dizziness. Media is being kept from these homes in spite of owners’ permission to be on their land, apparently based on orders from Exxon. The federal government seems to be missing from the scene.

Previously updated 4-2-13: A 65-year old ExxonMobil underground pipeline ruptured in a Mayflower, Arkansas subdivision on Friday, forcing continued evacuation of two dozen homes and releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons* of Canadian tar sands bitumen, which is moving toward nearby Lake Conway, a drinking water source for the region*So far, 12,000 barrels – over 500,000 gallons – of bitumin, toxic chemicals, and contaminated water have been recovered. 

An apparent breach in the Pegasus pipeline occurred late Friday afternoon. The pipeline has been shut off and crews are working to contain the spill.

Exxon Mobil said it’s investigating the cause and working with local authorities in clean-up efforts. The pipeline carries tar sands bitumen** from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. The pipeline used to carry oil in the other direction: “A change in the direction of flow can affect the hydraulic and stress demands on the pipeline,” according to an order issued by the U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration. The order directs Exxon to issue corrective action before the pipeline is reopened. Other tar sands pipelines being planned for both Canada and the U.S. would also reverse the direction of old pipelines.

Tar sands oil is the most toxic fossil fuel on the planet, which leaves in its wake scarred landscapes, a web of pipelines, polluting refineries and frequent ruptures (at least monthly in 2012): Sierra Club video on tar sands crude.

** Reports confirm the contents of the Pegasus pipeline as Wabasca heavy crude, to which benzene has been added in order to make it flow in pipelines. According to the Material Safety Data sheet for this diluted bitumen, or dilbit, “Due to presence of benzene, long term exposure may increase the risk of anemia and leukemia. Repeated skin contact may increase the risk of skin cancer.” According to the New York Times, pipeline officials do not have to reveal this content to authorities — apparently until caught in a situation such as is unfolding in Arkansas and has happened elsewhere with catastrophic results.  Michigan’s experience with an Enbridge rupture in 2010 documents health effects and high benzene levels from tar sands spills. Propublica database on pipeline “incidents” here and more recent but less comprehensive federal PHMSA data here.

In 2009, Exxon increased the load being carried in the Pegasus pipeline by 50 percent to transport Canadian tar sands oil to 30,000 barrels a day. In a 2012 report, Bloomberg News reported the pipeline to be carrying 96,000 barrels of oil a day.

Exxon is exempt from federal oil clean up fund because tar sands are not classified as oil.

Listen or read Amy Goodman and Bill McKibben’s April 1 coverage of the story at Democracy Now here.

Exxon was recently fined $1.7 million for its 2011 spill of at least 1500 barrels of crude into the Yellowstone River.

Read Ecowatch’s article, Why Keystone Matters and sign onto the Ecowatch petition to the president and/or sign’s million comment appeal not to approve the Keystone extension !

The latest action against Keystone: 79-year old woman locks herself to equipment to block construction.

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