MAUMELLE, Ark. (KTHV) - The Central Arkansas Water Commission is working to protect the water of some 400,000 people in Central Arkansas.
Commissioners Thursday discussed a series of measures, hoping to ensure what happened with the Mayflower oil spill doesn't happen in the Maumelle Watershed.
The same oil pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower runs through about 13.6 miles of the Maumelle Watershed. That's the area that drains into Lake Maumelle, which is the main drinking water source in our region. On Thursday, the water authority and some concerned citizens hoped to see Exxon-Mobil at the table for talks on keeping our water safe but the oil giant was a "no-show."
Plenty of people filled the Central Arkansas Water Commission meeting Thursday but a representative from Exxon Mobil was not one of them.
"We will work with you, we hear your concerns, why could they not come here today and say that to us," Concerned Citizen Kate Althoff said.
It was concern from citizens like Kate Althoff and Central Arkansas Water's CEO, Graham Rich.
"Certainly, certainly we were, this was an opportunity for the public to ask a lot of questions," Rich said.
CAW invited Exxon-Mobil to start the conversation with commissioners Thursday on how to protect part of the Pegasus Pipeline that runs through the Maumelle Watershed. But Rich announced at the meeting that the company backed out.
"This is our top priority right now until we get assurances that everything is going to be OK," Rich said.
Exxon-Mobil released a statement, saying they were focused on clean-up efforts in Mayflower but would attend a future meeting.
At Thursday's meeting, commissioners signed off on several things they want to work on with the oil giant. They first want to see an assessment of the pipeline through the Maumelle Watershed.
"The entire 13 and a half miles we obviously want assurances that's been inspected and we want to try and know what caused the failure in the pipe in Mayflower," Rich said.
Over the next year, CAW would like to see more control valves to the pipeline, more on-site equipment for emergencies and more field training in case of future ruptures. Althoff is hopeful for progress, at least with CAW.
"I trust them to press this issue with every avenue possible, with every agency possible, this is a high priority," Althoff said.
Commissioners want to make sure that the pipeline inspection around the watershed is done before Exxon-Mobil turns the pipeline back on again; it was shut down after the Mayflower spill.
They also agreed that they want to see the pipeline relocated away from the Watershed in the long-term.
At Thursday's meeting, water commissioners did hear from a representative from the Department of Transportation, which regulates pipeline transportation. The representative would not speak on camera but told commissioners that they are doing the right thing by pushing Exxon-Mobil to carry out these preventative measures.
Board concerned over pipeline in Maumelle Watershed