CONWAY — Residents of a Mayflower subdivision inundated with crude when an Exxon Mobile pipeline ruptured last week have filed the first lawsuit against the company.
The Duncan Law Firm and the Thrash Law Firm, both out of Little Rock, filed a class-action lawsuit Friday on behalf of Kathryn Jane Roachell Chunn and Kimla Greene, residents of the Northwoods subdivision. The suit claims that property values are diminished because of defective conditions of the Pegasus transcontinental pipeline, which has run through Mayflower since the 1940s.
Calls to both law firms were not returned late Friday afternoon.
According to the lawsuit, a change in the type of oil and the direction of flow helped to rupture the pipeline, which the federal Environmental Protection Agency has classified as a major spill.
For the past six years, the pipe has carried Canadian crude from the north to the gulf refineries. Before then, the pipe was used to transport lighter crude from the south to the north.
Officials working the spill have confirmed that the only entity that inspects the pipes is Exxon. According to the suit, the pipe has not been properly inspected in recent years.
The suit said that three years ago, the capacity of oil transported increased by 30 percent, which the plaintiffs claim contributed to the weakening of the pipeline.
The lawsuit also contends that oil has made its way to tributary coves in Lake Conway, despite assurances by Exxon Mobile officials that no oil has migrated to the lake.
The lawsuit will allow others to join, and because it states that anyone living within 3,000 feet of the pipeline was affected, the damages sought could reach into the millions.
Exxon Mobile said Friday that about 5,000 barrels of oil spilled when the pipeline ruptured March 29, forcing the evacuation of nearly two dozen homes. No one was injured in the accident. No one has said when residents will be able to return home.
Officials say crews have recovered about 19,000 barrels of oil and water from the subdivision, and volunteers from the University of Central Arkansas and elsewhere have worked to rescue oil-soaked wildlife.