State, Feds Seek Civil Penalties from ExxonMobil Over Mayflower Oil Spill

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Thursday, Jun. 13, 2013 3:20 pm  

Workers examine a section of a damaged Exxon Mobil oil pipeline in Mayflower after it was removed from the ground April 15. (Photo by AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

The lawsuit seeks penalties of $1,100 per barrel of spilled oil under the federal Clean Water Act. A barrel is equal to 31.5 gallons. That amount would grow to $4,300 per barrel if ExxonMobil is found to have engaged in "gross negligence or willful misconduct."

Thyer stopped short of saying the company was negligent or willful in any misconduct.

"We don't have those facts yet," Thyer said.

The lawsuit accuses the company of violating the state Hazardous Waste Management Act, which carries a daily penalty of $25,000. It also seeks penalties for violating two separate sections of the state Water and Air Pollution Control Act, which each carry penalties of $10,000 per day.

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality Director Teresa Marks said the company has been storing waste illegally at a company that uses hydraulic fracturing to drill for natural gas.

In a May 1 letter, Marks ordered ExxonMobil to remove waste that it stored at an ExxonMobil pump station in Conway and complained that the company hadn't responded to requests that it transport recovered oil and water to an approved disposal facility. The letter threatened enforcement action if the company didn't get rid of the waste.

On Thursday, Marks said the oil and water mix was being stored in "frack tanks," which are used by natural gas drillers who use high-pressure hydraulic fracturing to extract the fuel from underground rock formations. She said that a tornado or other severe event could cause the mixture to spill from the tanks.

Solids, such as oily soils, wood chips, asphalt and other materials were also covered under the order.

Stryk said at the spill site, crews have removed all "visible freestanding oil from the environment."

He said the emergency cleanup process will take months to complete and it will be followed by an effort to remediate the contaminated areas.

"We will remain until the job is done and will continue to work to restore Mayflower as quickly and as safely as possible," Stryk said in his email.

Mayflower is about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

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