Exxon Mobil officials told ABC News the company will pay for all of the cleanup costs associated with last week's oil spill in central Arkansas. Exxon officials were in the town of Mayflower, the site of the spill, today with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to begin the investigation, McDaniel's office told ABC News.
On March 30, a pipeline carrying crude oil from Illinois to the Texas Gulf Coast burst, spewing an oily mess through residential neighborhoods. Exxon said 22 homes were evacuated, but nearby Lake Conway was kept free of oil, though several ducks were killed in the spill.
Exxon Mobil spokesman Alan Jeffers said the company has promised from the beginning that it will compensate anyone with a valid claim and pay for all the costs. Jeffers said there have been several false reports that Exxon Mobil was trying to evade paying for the spill, which he says are "absolutely untrue."
"We've opened the claims line, put in ads in the local paper and have a number of claims adjusters in the community that have been handing out checks as early as two or three days ago," Jeffers said. "We're trying to do it with a minimal amount of discussion to reduce the amount of inconvenience we've already caused these people."
Today McDaniel toured the black, oily ditches plaguing the city's landscape and said the neighborhood looked "like a scene from the Walking Dead."
Clean-up crews have recovered more than 12,000 barrels of oil and water since the pipeline ruptured last Friday. The pipeline carries crude oil from Illinois to the Texas Gulf Coast and runs through Missouri and Arkansas. Jeffers said Exxon has removed most of the freestanding oil with 15 vacuum trucks in the area.
"The harder part comes power washing sidewalks, or in the neighborhood where the spill originated, we've started moving out affected vegetation and will put down new lawns," Jeffers said.
McDaniel said the clean-up would be a long and difficult road.
"The state of Arkansas stands with the people of Mayflower and no one will rest until this is made right," McDaniel said. "After seeing the source of the leak, I have more questions than answers."
McDaniel said although Exxon classifies the accident as a small spill, it will be a long and difficult road to recovery.
"There's no such thing as an overreaction by a homeowner. Selling a house in that neighborhood will be very different now and the fault of that shouldn't be with the homeowners," McDaniel said.
Exxon told ABC News after the situation is clear, they plan to start the process of having the pipeline back up and functioning.