"It smells terrible out here, Mom," she said. "I don’t know what’s going on, but you need to get home."
What was going on was that the Pegasus pipeline, which carried Alabasca heavy crude oil (tar sands) from Illinois to Texas, had ruptured en route and the Jarrells’ tiny town of Mayflower, Ark. had a river of oil flowing through its streets.
Jarrell has long blond hair and a voice hoarse from coughing. She told me last week that she’d been sharing her home with her daughter and four-month-old grandson, Logan, at the time of the spill. Their first concern was the child, but they couldn’t decide what was best for him.
Her daughter wanted to pack up the baby and leave, but Ann wasn’t sure what they should do. Her first instinct was to call the police. She did so, only to find a frustrating lack of answers.
"I asked, ‘Do we need to evacuate?’ They said, ‘Do you have oil on your property?’" Jarrell remembered. When she told them there wasn’t, and reported the smell, she says the answering officer was unmoved. She says he told her not to evacuate, and that the smell was the result of some sort of police containment situation. “‘The smell’s just so we can tell when it breaks,’" he told her. “‘Just like they do with the natural gas line."
This is not true. No such mechanism existed for the pipeline.
Though 22 houses were evacuated, the Jarrells’ ultimately wasn’t. They live adjacent to those houses, right next to the cove that Exxon claimed insists was not affected by the spill.
A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Greenpeace has found conclusive evidence from internal Exxon documents that they knew there was oil in the cove, and insisted the families did not need to be evacuated anyway. According to the documents, Exxon even hauled waste out of the cove right beside the Jarrells’ home. Jarrell says Exxon workers were so close to her home that she could stand in her driveway and ask them if her family was safe. She says they assured her that her family was fine, and that the smell and the nausea would go away.
Ann says her family has been sick ever since.
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