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News Blackout: Oil Flows Faster than Info About Tar Sands Oil Cleanup in Arkansas

And ExxonMobil still isn't saying how much more is in the pipeline.

Oil pipelines through farmland. What could go wrong?
Photo Credit: Reinhardt Tiburzy


Ten days after the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline burst, spewing thousands of barrels of Canadian tar sands oil into the North Woods residential development in Mayflower, Arkansas, much of the oil spill has been collected, although it continues to spread slowly, seeping into wetlands and nearby Lake Conway.

Slow as the oil's movement may be, it seems to move faster than news related to the spill, the cleanup, or ExxonMobil and the local, state, and federal agencies who keep tight control over information that, in ordinary circumstances, the public would expect to hear in a timely fashion.

Even those directly affected say they are told little, mostly generalities from ExxonMobil public relations people. As reported April 7, "Town residents say they are being kept in the dark over compensation and the cleanup by Exxon."

Over at, the sardonic view of this tight-liddedness was that the news control machine was working:

The big news is that for the most part, only fringe online new outlets are reporting on the disaster! The federal and state government appear to be working together to keep the news of the spill from making it onto front page news. Consider this:

The oil spill was kept off front page news on all major new outlets.

Exxon has asked the FAA to enforce a no-fly zone over the area, most likely to prevent aerial photography. The FAA did as Exxon asked.

Local and state police are keeping the media and public away from the spill site.

This situation continues to raise questions like these, increasingly in need of future refinement.

Who's taking care of the 40 or so people evacuated from 22 houses close to the spill?

They seem to be pretty much taking care of themselves as far as one can tell. Despite a wide range in their ages, and hence vulnerability to the toxic exposure they've suffered, there's no word that they're being screened by public health officials or anything like that.

Members of the Pipeliners Union 798, who work on pipelines like the one that burst, have given a check for $1,000 to each of the 22 families who were evacuated.

ExxonMobil has repeatedly promised to pay all valid claims from anyone harmed by the spill, but there's no report that they've paid anyone a food allowance or anything else yet.

As of April 8, four families were allowed to return home. One said he was glad he didn't need to wear a gas mask on his return.

Why did ExxonMobil deny it was dumping oil in nearby wetlands?

Perhaps because it didn't do that.

ExxonMobil tweeted on April 7: "Claims that ExxonMobil is dumping oil into wetlands are completely unfounded. Cleanup in Mayflower, AR continues."

A quick search turned up no such claim. But there is a report  on that members of the Tar Sands Blockade have "heard reports" of some dumping, which RawStory tried to clarify:

… the activist group Tar Sands Blockade has members on the ground in Mayflower risking arrest to show the public areas even local media have not seen, such as this "dumping ground" in the wetlands near the spill site. Tar Sands Blockade says they've heard reports that "because Exxon had already partially destroyed this wetland, they pumped diluted bitumen spilled in other areas here to get it all in one place and keep it out of sight of the media."

As RawStory notes, "While it's not clear if the oil was intentionally moved into the wetland, the company says it is cleaning pavement with power washing devices, which could cause some of the oil to be pushed off neighborhood streets and into other areas." Whether this area has been used as a place to put oil so it can be cleaned later or it was just polluted with oil during the initial spill, it is clear the wetlands are highly contaminated and will be a massive challenge to clean.

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