Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mayflower, Arkansas Exxon Tar Sands Oil Spill

You would think that five weeks would be enough time to put a dent in an oil spill even the size of the Mayflower spill and all the manpower and equipment thrown at it. Think again. 

Let me pick apart the photo above for you. (sorry the original photo was much larger) The absorbent pads they are using can suck up about a quart or two of material. There's far more oil than those pads could suck up and seeing how it rained just after this began the oil is now been washed down to the hard pan. Even taking off the top 12" of soil would not make a difference at this point. I've had to dig a minor spill down two feet to get to clean soil on one job and that was only a 50 gallon spill. Now let's look at the worker there. The idea of doing hazardous waste removal is to keep as much of the "product" off of your protective clothing. This guy looks like he's been swimming in it. Also note he's not wearing any respirator and doesn't appear to have shaved. Any good supervisor in the business would send him home or at least to shave and put on a respirator with chemical filters.

Now to the cover up. While Exxon and the state agencies have deemed this to be cleaned up the state Attorney General has another opinion after noting that air samples came back with high levels of the chemicals found in the oil. And even at safe levels the smell is still enough to make you sick. Think of a road that's just been freshly asphalted only in this case you can't drive past the smell to fresher air. Even tests inside homes had high levels. So where does Exxon get off saying this is safe? And there are the folks who have basically lost the use of their homes and will never return. Exxon attorneys have said that the company would buy some of the affected homes but to date no such offer has been made. Who after all would want to buy a house knowing that it could give you cancer at some later date. With no buyers other than Exxon and the home owners not wanting to return, they'll have to be torn down. Whether any one would want to rebuild there is highly questionable.

Basic procedures with this spill were never followed. There is an incident response plan book that all fire departments and emergency personnel use when dealing with any chemical spill. Minimally the standard operating procedure is to evacuate the area to a distance of 1/2 mile and keep that area closed to all but haz mat crews until an evaluation and clean up plan can be established. In the case of Mayflower even the elementary school less and 1/4 mile away remained open during the entire emergency and clean up operations. We watched for days as clean up workers set about to contain and blot up the tar sands oil with booms and absorbent pads and rolls so those children were in reality in the contamination zone with no protective equipment. All of this goes against all of the training a hazardous waste worker goes through. Primary lessons include protecting oneself (because after all what good is a dead worker) followed by protecting human life and finally the environment and property. With Mayflower it  was get it out of sight so that it could be out of mind as quickly as possible with a disregard for worker and public safety. And any smart lawyer is going to have a field day with the photos taken even by the company itself. They have in effect provided the rope to hang themselves legally speaking.


Roger Owen Green said...

and yet the MSM has minimized this spill because it wasn't Exxon Valdez or BP spill size

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BBC said...

I hope it doesn't rain too much today.

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