Lt. Governor Mark Darr and Mayflower Mayor Randy Holland toured clean-up efforts undertaken in the aftermath of the March oil spill in Mayflower.
Darr and Holland toured the still-empty neighborhood in the North Woods subdivision of Mayflower, where residents have been told they can come back to their homes but none have elected to do so.
The two also toured the marsh adjacent to Lake Conway, where much of the oil eventually collected.
They say questions persist – like what caused the pipeline to rupture – but both officials seem to echo a sentiment common among many local officials and even some residents who don’t live in the immediate area of the spill: That the area is actually more desirable than it was before the spill and that Exxon has been cooperative.
"To me the clean-up looks like they've done a good job. But I didn't just do that from my visual. I did that from speaking to the mayor, hearing his opinions, local businesses, and also local citizens that they've kind of made this area even better than what it was before. I definitely think there's some unanswered questions, but as far as the clean-up goes it looks like that's been pretty well taken care of," says Darr.
While standing beside what was once a wetland, Mayor Randy Holland said he would like Lake Conway expanded into the marsh, where the oil collected, for additional recreational use. Lt. Gov. Darr pointed at an area and envisioned a possible boat ramp location.
But some environmental scientists and residents maintain there is still a presence of harmful chemicals and a persistent and lasting damage to the environment. They say it will take years to restore the ecology of the wetland.
Meanwhile, Exxon has come under fire for responding to the oil spill even slower than federally required, and the disaster response timeline is currently under investigation. Several lawsuits have been filed regarding environmental damage.
As for whether the pipeline running through the Lake Maumelle watershed - or any of the numerous waterways the Pegasus pipeline crosses - should be moved, Darr and Holland both said not necessarily. They say they’d instead like to see it improved and propose some advanced technologies and additional sensors along the pipeline route.