ExxonMobil and local officials talk to reporters Thursday. (Photo: Dustin Wilson/THV 11 News)
MAYFLOWER, Ark. (KTHV) - Two weeks after Arkansas' largest oil spill, trucks still line Starlite Rd. in Mayflower. Officials announced for a second time on Thursday the reopening of four homes and said eight or nine more could open in the next few days.
"There's going to be additional work in the neighborhood for a little bit longer until it all gets completed, and so we're phasing it so that its safely done," said Nick Brescia with the EPA.
Brescia said over the last two weeks, air quality samples have consistently improved.
Crews, meanwhile, cleared the soil around the pipeline and located the 22-inch long rupture. Exxon officials said they must remove the broken section for analysis to figure out how the spill began.
"We got to get the oil out. We do have approval from the DOT to proceed with the excavation of the pipeline, so we anticipate the next few days," said Karen Tyrone, ExxonMobil Operations Director.
Tyrone said the severe weather Wednesday did not cause the oil to spread.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality reported levels of Benzene, a carcinogenic, within a cove area, but water quality seems to be improving.
"We've seen no constituents of concern in the lake itself, and the levels we've seen in the cove have significantly reduced from the first samples that were taken," said Ryan Benefield, ADEM.
Exxon officials added that they are also working on addressing home values for effected residents.
"And the concern of those homeowners is very real. We are working through a program for them that includes up to home purchase," said Tyrone.
Homeowners do have the option of staying at a hotel on Exxon's expense until the cleanup is finished.