8 Investigates: Pipeline runs through NE Arkansas

LAWRENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has demanded documents regarding the oil spill in Mayflower, which happened in late March. Click here to read about the story. In the last few weeks, supporters and opponents of oil and gas pipelines have been discussing the benefits and hazards of the Keystone Pipeline, which would run from Canada to Texas. A Region 8 News investigation revealed the pipeline that ruptured in Mayflower runs through several counties in the western part of Region 8.

According to the Arkansas Geology Commission, the pipeline runs through White, Cleburne, Independence, Lawrence and Randolph Counties before entering southeast Missouri. It follows several other major natural gas lines.

"They come through about twice a year and run that pig thing, they call it, through there, which is a little deal with a camera on it," said Austin Courtney, who has lived in Lawrence County for several years.

Courtney said an oil pipeline runs right through his property. He didn't realize the pipeline is the same one that ruptured in Mayflower until Region 8 News brought it to his attention.

"That's probably been 4-5 years ago, and they come in and replaced it. They put the ground back in the same kind of shape it was in when they started," said Courtney, who owns 400 acres of land.

Courtney said he's not concerned with the possibility of an oil leak.

"To be honest with you, it doesn't bother me. If they come through, they'll fix your fence back. They'll fix your ground back. If you want Bermuda grass thrown on it, they'll put Bermuda grass and if you want Fescue, they'll put in Fescue," said Courtney.

"You know it's a pipeline crossing but you don't necessarily know what's in there," said Joseph Jansen, Manager of the NEA Public Water Authority.

Jansen maintains the water treatment plant near Black Rock. He said the plant treats water from the Eleven Point River and Spring River. The Exxon Mobil pipeline runs across both rivers north of the plant.

Region 8 News asked about the possibility of a pipeline rupture near the river. In a worst case scenario, Jansen said, the plant would shut down temporarily.

"I'm really not hugely concerned about oil for several reasons. One, there's obvious crossings everywhere, but oil is going to tend to float on the water. We draw our water from the bottom," said Jansen.

Jansen also said the Health Department would get involved if a pipeline were to bust.

"Every county road that you drive down probably has a pipeline somewhere, somehow. It really doesn't surprise me and we just did a study on our point sources of pollution in our water shed not too long ago. We were aware that it had crossed in several areas throughout here. We just weren't aware it was that specific one," said Jansen, who says he's never treated oil in the water at the plant, which went online in 2010.

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