Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Treehugger Tuesday

The potential for devastation from the Exxon Pegasus Pipeline

The pipeline which burst in Mayflower, Arkansas in March and spilled 84,000 gallons of oil, passes through 18 watersheds, including the important Lake Maumelle Watershed, which is the source of drinking water for Little Rock. The Arkansas Times reports on this discovery:

The path of the Pegasus pipeline in Arkansas
Exxon's pipeline cuts across the watersheds that provide drinking water for 770,000 Arkansans.
by Sam Eifling, David Koon and Elizabeth McGowan

The oil that erupted in Mayflower back in March began its trip in an Illinois hamlet named Patoka, 90 minutes east of St. Louis. It shot down ExxonMobil's 20-inch Pegasus pipeline, under farms and forests, over the Mississippi River via a state highway bridge, through the Missouri Ozarks, across the Arkansas state line and, a few miles later, near the workplace of one Glenda Jones, whom you can find on a summer Saturday at her bar job, watching the Cardinals thump the Cubs.

The other bartender here at the Rolling Hills Country Club in the town of Pocahontas is named Brenda, so anyone visiting the golf course in far Northeast Arkansas is bound to meet one of the Endas, as they're known around the club. At 5 p.m. it's quiet in the 10-table lounge but for a Fox broadcaster making Jones's day: "Molina deep ... back to the wall ... it's gone!" Jones, the proud Enda and part-time house cleaner who refers to the Cardinals as "we," hollers, "Yes, finally!"

Ask her about Pocahontas, and she's quick to tout its famous five rivers (the Spring, the Black, the Current, the Fourche, the Eleven Point). And the people are sure friendly. "Course they are," she says. "We're in the middle of the Bible Belt. Know what I mean? Everybody's nice here." If one thing gives her pause about this area, it might be the Pegasus. It runs right under her yard, and she worries about it rusting. "Stuff like that only lasts so long," she says.

The Pegasus spill surprised many people in Mayflower, in part because many of them had no idea they were living atop an oil superhighway. So we got to wondering: Where does the Pegasus go? To find out, we traced its path using maps publicly available from the federal agency that regulates pipelines, the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). We got precise with Google Earth, following the pipeline's easement — the broad, bald line where trees are kept off the pipe — through the 13 Arkansas counties the Pegasus crosses on its way to Texas. From satellite images, we could see what another break in the Exxon pipeline could directly threaten: pastures, national forest, rivers, creeks, homes, churches, at least one school, this golf course. It also crosses watersheds for 18 drinking water sources that, together, serve about 770,000 people, a quarter of the state's population. We asked the people in those areas how the pipeline affects their lives. The prospect of a spill makes most of them fretful, while one man thought a spill would punch his ticket to better places.

Read the entire story here.

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