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Oil From Exxon's Pegasus Spill In Arkansas Makes Its Way Into Lake, Prompting Health And Environmental Concerns [VIDEO]

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Apr 08, 2013 01:24 PM EDT
A man inspects his oil-covered hand at the site of an Exxon pipeline rupture in Arkansas
A man inspects his oil-covered hand at the site of an Exxon pipeline rupture in Arkansas. (Photo : Flickr/Tar Sands Blockade )

After original reports that oil from Exxon Mobil's leaking Pegasus oil pipeline in Mayflower, Ark. was stopped before reaching nearby Lake Conway, evidence that oil has spilled into a cove connected to the lake has surfaced, putting residents and environmental activists on alert.

A RawStory report indicates that oil was power washed from residential streets and would up in the cove, though it was unclear whether this done intentionally. Video of the cove area shows some effort to clean it up; the surface of the wetland area is covered in what are reportedly Exxon's "absorbent pads," which look very similar to paper towels.

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Lake Conway is reportedly not a source of drinking water for locals, but it is a significant habitat for wildlife and a popular recreation and fishing spot. 

The spill has caused ecological concerns from residents and volunteers who continue to come across more "oiled" and dead animals in the ongoing cleanup efforts. Joshua Hines, an environmental science degree candidate at University of Central Arkansas, told the local newspaper Log Cabin Democrat that the cove, which that feeds into the larger part of Lake Conway, is a breeding ground for egrets, cranes and ducks.

Hines said that in his volunteer cleanup efforts he has seen many oil-covered animals and has concerns for the animals' health, as the oil, a semisolid called bitumen, can harm wildlife even if it does not kill.

"It is a blistering agent. Ducks are covered in blisters, and that's just the surface," he said. "Not only is it a hormonal disruption, it will cause reproductive issues. The cove area is a breeding ground for water fowl species. In addition, you have immune system disruption and chemical burn."

Exxon insists that no oil has reached the "main body" of Lake Conway, though it has acknowledged that several animals have died due to the oil spill.

According to an April 6 press release, Exxon said that affected wildlife includes ducks, turtles, beaver and muskrat. The statement reports 13 dead ducks, three dead turtles and one dead nutria have been recovered.

Arkansas news station KATV reports that Exxon has not been able to explain the cause of the spill. Residents of 22 homes that were evacuated due to the oil spill remain unable to return home.

The quality of the air around the site has upset some residents, who say it has caused them health conditions the did not have previously. The stench of the oil can be smelled by motorists as they drive along Interstate 40 near the spill.

"No one wants to live in a city that smells like oil," said Anthony McMullen, an associate professor of business law at University of Central Arkansas, in an interview with the Log Cabin Democrat.

Activist group Tar Sands Blockage, which vocally opposes the oil pipeline, sent its own reporters to the spill site, where they have extensively documented the area with photographs and video.

The activists report being turned away from the site several times by police and Exxon cleanup workers, but they later managed to gain access.

One local man they interviewed said in a video said that his throat and eyes have been bothering him since the spill.

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