Little Rock-based journalist, Suzi Parker has an important piece at Grist describing the conditions on the ground in Mayflower, Arkansas following last Friday's Exxon Mobil oil spill. She writes that Exxon "has instituted something like martial law."
Company workers wearing logoed shirts roam throughout the town. Local police guard the entrance to the neighborhood where the spill happened. On Starlite Road, where oil flowed down the street last week, workers vacuum up oil in yards and steam-wash pavement.The oil company has also taken over wildlife rescue from a local organization; independent rescuers report that they are being forced to leave private property by ExxonMobil enforcers. (Casualties so far include oil-covered ducks, snakes, and nutria.) Reporters who accompanied Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on a tour of the spill on Wednesday were asked to leave by Exxon representatives. Even the state Department of Environmental Quality refers reporters to the Exxon downstream media line for information.
Lisa Song at Inside Climate News was one of those journalists threatened with arrest after she went to the command center for the cleanup operation in an attempt to reach an Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation official for an interview:
Inside the building, Song went to a table with a sign that said "public affairs," where she was given the name and contact information for Austin Vela, the EPA spokesman at the site. Before she could get the name of a DOT representative, however, Exxon spokeswoman Kim Jordan spotted Song and told her to leave. A second person arrived and said, "You've been asked by security to leave. If you don't you'll be arrested for criminal trespass."
Elsewhere, "an activist indy news team" duo called JNL, has been using Ustream and Twitter to report from Mayflower and interview local residents. Yesterday, they were detained by police and forced to leave private property where they were reporting from, despite having permission to be there.
Here are some of their reports with local residents:
Below they captured a number of angry responses to a tweet by @ExxonMobil
We sincerely apologize to the people of Mayflower, AR for the inconvenience & disruption the pipeline incident has caused.— ExxonMobil (@exxonmobil) April 4, 2013
And the photo above was shared on their Facebook page and shows cleanup workers cleaning oil near a Subway restaurant. Note that the workers are not wearing face masks, despite reports that the fumes are so strong residents are suffering from headaches, running eyes, burning throats and sinus problems.
I'll continue to update this post as more reports come in.
MORE: See all of our Mayflower, Arkansas oil spill coverage here.