Dispatches From Exxon’s Spill Zone

When we first heard about the Exxon tar sands spill in Arkansas we knew we had to respond. A group of Blockaders arrived in Mayflower late last night to assist affected residents with mutual aid and help amplify their stories. Here is their first dispatch from the scene. You can also watch their livestream coverage, reports in local media outlets and see more photos. Also, their footage was picked up by The Rachel Maddow Show and Stephen Colbert.

Check out the rest of our coverage:

Day 2 – Dispatches from Exxon’s Spill Zone
Days 3 & 4 – Dispatches from Exxon’s Spill Zone
Day 5 – The Cover-up Continues
Day 6 – In Storms Aftermath, Contaminants Continue To Spread; Local Workers Uninformed, Unprotected


Mayflower, Arkansas, April 3 – Yesterday, a group of blockaders traveled to Mayflower, Arkansas, the site of a tar sands spill that led to the evacuation of dozens of homes in this small community just north of Little Rock. Our objective is to first and foremost show solidarity with affected community members by lending any form of aid or relief we can, and also by documenting the facts in a way that mainstream sources have been predictably inadequate.

Upon approaching the spill zone, we were almost immediately stopped by police and warned that any “sneaking around” would lead to an immediate trip to the Faulkner County Jail, “no warnings.” Despite the stern advisory, this particular officer made it clear that these orders were coming straight from Exxon, and that only press with permission from Exxon media officials were to be granted access to document the site. No less than 20 minutes later, we were stopped again and issued a similar warning.

Dead Vegetation in Lake Conway

Dead Vegetation in Lake Conway

Though our time here has just begun, we’ve been able to secure interviews with locals who are none too happy with the way ExxonMobil has now permanently affected their community. One woman, who lives just outside the evacuation zone, is reporting that the stench of tar sands is so strong throughout her home that she’s unable to eat. Though she lives just one house away from the evacuation zone, she has yet to be contacted by Exxon officials regarding the spill.

On top of the human toll of this spill, we’ve seen firsthand the devastation wrought on local ecosystems and marine life suffocated by the invasion of tar sands into their habitats. A group of graduate students at nearby University of Central Ark. have taken time to clean up affected animals at Lake Conway. They told us the differences between crude oil and tar sands have been very apparent: the substance coating the land and animals is thicker, “like sludge,” and seems to cause blisters and skin irritation at a rate higher than crude.

Watch this interview with the grad student volunteers.

Nutria Covered in Tar Sands

Nutria killed by Tar Sands. Photo Credit: Courtney Spradlin

Despite all of this, Exxon claims to be exempt from taxes which would otherwise support the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund because the IRS doesn’t count tar sands as “conventional oil.” To opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, this may seem ironic considering tar sands’ classification as “conventional crude oil” is precisely the justification for TransCanada’s use of eminent domain to seize the land of homeowners.

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