WASHINGTON, April 4 Air quality in the Arkansas
neighborhood where an Exxon Mobil Corp pipeline leaked
thousands of barrels of Canadian crude has improved but was
still unhealthy where workers were cleaning it up, the company
and the U.S. environment regulator said on Thursday.
Readings of air quality "are below levels likely to cause
health effects for the general population with the exception of
the cleanup areas where the emergency responders are directly
working," the Environmental Protection Agency said.
"As cleanup continues, contaminant levels continue to
decrease," it said.
Exxon has been digging out oil-soaked lawns and replacing
them with fresh sod in the neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas,
where the government estimated up to 5,000 barrels of Canadian
crude leaked on Friday.
The Pegasus line, which can transport more than 90,000
barrels per day of Canadian crude to Texas from Illinois,
remained shut with no estimate of when it would restart.
Exxon said its data showed levels of benzene, a component of
crude linked to cancer, had fallen in days following the leak.
On Sunday benzene had been detected 10 times in the area
where workers are cleaning up the crude, with the highest
concentration recorded at 0.8 parts per million. By Tuesday,
benzene was detected three times in the work area with the
highest level at 0.3 ppm.
Monitors detected that instances of volatile organic
compounds (VOCs), which are linked to ear and throat irritation
and kidney and liver damage, had also fallen. Exxon data
detected VOCs 43 times on Sunday. By Tuesday that had fallen to
Twenty-two homes were evacuated by authorities after the
leak and residents had not returned by Thursday.
Workers cleaning up the spill were using breathing equipment
where necessary, the EPA said.
Residents in the area surrounding the spill had complained
of a strong asphalt odor in the days after the leak. That odor
has died down considerably since Monday, residents said on