Dallas Marks Anniversary of Mayflower Tar Sands Spill


Last night Tar Sands Blockade and Texas Action Coalition for the Environment held a vigil in downtown Dallas at Pegasus Plaza to mark the one year anniversary of the Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands spill. One year after 210,000 gallons of tar sands spilled from Exxon’s Pegasus Pipeline, residents are still suffering major health complications and many were forced to leave their homes.

We read aloud the testimony of Ann Jarrell, a Mayflower resident who lived only a few hundred feet from the rupture site. Her three month-old grandson developed a severe lung infection and requires special breathing apparatus to this day. Ann herself suffered from debilitating headaches and other symptoms for months following the spill, and only saw improvement when her doctor ordered her to leave her home and never return – not even for a few minutes.

Exxon is attempting to restart a section of the 65-year-old pipeline in Texas any day now, requesting approval from the Pipeline & Hazardous Material Safety Administration. As of Friday night, PHMSA have yet to announce a decision on that request. As we await PHMSA’s decision, it is essential that Texans stand united to say that public safety, clean water and health are more valuable than fossil fuel wealth.

Inside Climate News attempted to obtain the restart plan and were told they would need to do a FOIA request:

When InsideClimate News asked for a copy of the restart plan that was sent to PHMSA in January—a document that would contain the details about the precautions being taken by Exxon—Exxon deferred to PHMSA. A PHMSA spokesman said parts of the plan might need to be redacted, so it could only be released to the public through a Freedom of Information Act request.

At PHMSA, however, getting documents through the Freedom of Information Act is typically a months-long process. InsideClimate News has uncompleted Pegasus-related FOIAs that date back to last June.

“The fact that anything related to repairs or tests would have to be FOIA’d is pretty outrageous,” said Steven Da Silva of the Safe Community Alliance, a Texas group that has been highlighting the risks posed by the Pegasus and other pipelines. “Before there’s any forward progress on the discussion to reopen it, the public needs to know what exactly is the condition [of] the pipeline.”

Every single weld on the Pegasus Pipeline is below today’s welding standards, and there are thousands of anomalies and instances of 30-70% metal loss due to corrosion throughout the length of this pipeline. Now Exxon is trying to argue the southern section of the pipeline is not as dangerous as the section that spilled in Mayflower. Again from Inside Climate News:

The northern portion of the Pegasus—including where the pipe broke—was constructed in 1947 and 1948, using low frequency electric resistance welded (LF-ERW) pipe that’s known to be more prone to rupture because it often contains dangerous manufacturing defects as well as brittleness around the lengthwise seams.

In contrast, most of the pipeline’s southern leg—more than 80 percent of it—was built in 1951 from pipe that was fused using a different method called electric flash-weld (EFW). About 30 miles of the line was built using the same kind of pipe in 1954, and about 10 miles of pipe is much newer.

Industry research and failure studies have shown that EFW pipe is high on the list of problem pipe and has vulnerabilities that are similar to those at the heart of the Arkansas spill. PHMSA highlighted the troubled record of EFW pipe, calling it “susceptible to seam failure, even if to a lesser extent than low frequency ERW pipe.”

With so many documented problems, it’s hard to believe that anyone would send corrosive tar sands through 65-year-old pipelines. But Exxon doesn’t care about the families living along the pipeline route. Quarterly profits mean more to an Exxon CEO than families like Ann Jarrell’s. Exxon is rich, Pegasus is broke, no restart!


To learn more about the spill, read and watch our reports from the spill site one year ago: Dispatch 1 – Dispatch 2 – Dispatch 3 & 4 – Dispatch 5 – Dispatch 6

Permanent link to this article: https://tarsandsblockade.org/remember_mayflower/