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The Pegasus pipeline

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Completed in 1948 to deliver light, conventional crude oil from Nederland, Texas, to the Patoka Oil Terminal Hub in Patoka, Ill., ExxonMobil's Pegasus Pipeline is an 858-mile, 20-inch steel pipeline with a capacity of up to 95,000 barrels per day. A project to reverse the flow of the pipeline — the first such reversal of an existing petroleum pipeline — was completed in 2006. Since then, the Pegasus Pipeline has been used exclusively to deliver heavier Canadian petroleum products to Gulf Coast refineries.

Stretching diagonally across Arkansas from northeast to southwest, the Pegasus Pipeline crosses several major rivers in the state, including the Spring, Strawberry, White, Little Red, Arkansas, Caddo and Saline Rivers. When Lake Maumelle was built in 1957-58, the pipeline was diverted around the lake so it would not lie directly beneath the reservoir, but the Pegasus still runs through 13 miles of the Lake Maumelle watershed, including one section buried fewer than 600 feet from the water. Dr. Carl Stapleton, director of the Environmental Health Sciences program in the Biology Department at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said the shoreline of Lake Maumelle is, on average, much steeper than the shoreline of Lake Conway, meaning that if a pipeline break or rupture occurred in the Maumelle watershed, the spill would probably find its way to the water very quickly. Lake Maumelle supplies around 60 percent of the water used by residents of Central Arkansas.

Asked whether the company would consider moving the pipeline out of the Lake Maumelle watershed given the damage caused by the spill in Mayflower and the potential for fouling a large portion of Central Arkansas's water supply, Exxon spokesman Charles Engelmann said, "If there is absolutely any indication that there is a concern for that segment of the pipeline, then we'll take whatever measures it takes to keep it safe. At this stage, there's no indication that segment is a concern."

Exxon has not yet determined why the Pegasus pipeline burst in Mayflower.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, there are 1,805 miles of hazardous liquid pipeline in Arkansas. That doesn't include natural gas transmission and distribution lines. DOT information says that between 2003 and 2012, there were 28 incidents involving hazardous liquid pipelines in the state, including a 2009 accident on the TE Products Pipeline in Searcy that resulted in three fatalities. The total amount of hazardous liquids lost in Arkansas between 2003 and 2012 was estimated by the DOT at 6,107 barrels. Total property damage from those incidents was estimated at $5.05 million dollars.

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