Arkansas AG: Health Issues A Concern After Oil Spill

May 7, 2013

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel speaking to reporters Tuesday in his office.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says he's concerned about the lingering health implications from the Mayflower oil spill.

It has been about five weeks since the Pegasus pipeline ruptured, spilling hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw crude, but McDaniel says people near the site are still feeling the effects.

“As we met with residents and groups that represent them, like Remember Mayflower, I heard time and time again about their health, especially the health of their children,” McDaniel said at an afternoon news conference.

“Many continue to suffer from headaches and nausea and air sampling continues to show that the carcinogen benzene remains in the air.”

However, a spokesman for ExxonMobil says testing shows levels are below those considered dangerous by the Arkansas Department of Health.

McDaniel also said he received a report Monday from the oil company about its offers to buy some homes closest to the site of the spill, but he doesn’t ExxonMobil is going far enough.

“I believe that Exxon should purchase all of the affected properties in that area, including those in the subdivision and in the cove area for the appraisal price prior to the spill. I do not believe this plan accomplishes that goal and I will have more to say about it soon,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel’s office is conducting an extensive investigation into the cause of the spill and response by the company. At this point he said no decision has been made about whether litigation by the state is warranted.

The office has also set up a hotline for people with concerns about the spill.  The number is 855-388-6555.

Watching Tuesday’s press conference was Glen Hooks with the Sierra Club, who said “I’m pleased to see that he’s using the state’s resources to form the Mayflower Response Team.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how hard he will push back against ExxonMobil.”

“Right now one of the problems we’ve had is basically just a one-way flow of information from ExxonMobil and no way to independently verify that. It sounds like Attorney General McDaniel is forming something like that not only to inform consumers, but really help us get access to information,” Hooks said.

The company says it is cooperating fully with the investigation by the AG’s office. Last month it also supplied thousands of pages worth of documents that were subpoenaed by the state.