Despite ExxonMobil’s promises to clean up thousands of barrels of dense Canadian tar sands oil that flooded an Arkansas community, residents of the contaminated town have filed a class-action lawsuit against the oil giant.
The company’s Pegasus pipeline, which transports the bitumen oil from Illinois to the Texas Gulf coast, ruptured March 29 in a residential section of the Mayflower community just a few miles north of Little Rock. Since then, the area has been on lockdown as ExxonMobil workers arrive to clean up the spill, talk with residents and officials, and assess damage claims.
“This Arkansas class action lawsuit involves the worst crude oil and tar sands spill in Arkansas history,” the lawsuit states. The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Plaintiffs seek $5 million for damages stemming from the spill, which caused at least 22 homes to be evacuated and flooded the surrounding wetlands with oil.
ExxonMobil estimates that between 3,500 and 5,000 barrels spilled from its ruptured pipeline, but plaintiffs assert that that more than 19,000 barrels (798,000 gallons) flooded their city.
According to Daily Finance, the lawsuit was filed by two individuals who claim the spill has caused a permanent drop in their property values. ExxonMobil has said it considers the spill to be small, but it far exceeds the federal government’s classification of a “major spill” as upwards of 250 barrels.
Last week, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel toured the devastated area, expressing his concern over the severity of the spill.
“The state of Arkansas stands with the people of Mayflower and no one will rest until this is made right,” he said. “After seeing the source of the leak, I have more questions than answers.”
McDaniel also indicated that the homeowners displaced by the spill have every right to expect compensation from the oil giant for damages that could mar the neighborhood for years to come.
“There’s no such thing as an overreaction by a homeowner. Selling a house in that neighborhood will be very different now and the fault of that shouldn’t be with the homeowners,” Mr. McDaniel said.