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Officials Offer Look at Cleanup in Oil-Soaked Marsh

MAYFLOWER, AR -- Crews operating a backhoe on Saturday worked to scoop up trees and brush, loading the oil-ruined vegetation into a giant chipper to be reduced to mulch and sent away to a landfill.
MAYFLOWER, AR -- Crews operating a backhoe on Saturday worked to scoop up trees and brush, loading the oil-ruined vegetation into a giant chipper to be reduced to mulch and sent away to a landfill.

While Exxon Mobil has promise to restore the marsh near Lake Conway that flooded with crude oil March 29th, right now, the area is a shadow of its former self.

Once free-standing oil is removed, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality will fully assess the extent of damage.

"There will be detailed soil samples taken, ground water samples taken, additional surface water taken," explained the A.D.E.Q.'s Ryan Benefield.

The purpose will be to see whether toxins are leaching into the environment and possibly affecting one of Lake Conway's main attractions.

"Any affect on the fish would be something that would be long term," Benefield said.

So far, the A.D.E.Q. has only found toxins in low levels in the cove area of Lake Conway and said the main body and surrounding waterways remain clear.

Exxon Mobil refuses to put a timeline on the restoration project, but the company promises to continue work until local, state and federal agencies are satisfied.  Exxon Mobil has also promised to foot the bill.

"We're here to make it right," said Exxon V.P. of Pipeline Operations Karen Tyrone.  "We're going to be here until we clean it up."

Meanwhile, over in the Northwoods subdivision where the spill originated, Faulker County Judge Allen Dodson spoke about the work being done to return the neighborhood to normal.

"We've got a two-week project with the storm water pipe that has some oil under it," he said. "We're going to remove that pipe."

While they work, crews have shut off water to affected homes.  Add to that the danger and nuisance of crews operating heavy machinery nearby -- it's no wonder 22 evacuated homes remain empty even though some residents have been given permission to return.

"We certainly regret that this has occurred," said Tyrone. "We never want oil to get out of the pipeline."

Exxon Mobil said cleanup will continue for two to three more weeks in the subdivision and other oil-affected areas on the west side of I-40.

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