by Max Brantley
One of many unanswered questions about the Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture at Mayflower is when, exactly, were troubles first noted on the pipeline. What time did the rupture begin? When was the flow stopped in the affected portion of the line? How much oil spilled during that time? And so forth.
Some day a thorough report will be forthcoming.
In the meanwhile, any number of alternative media outlets are in pursuit of the questions. Heres one, Inside Climate News, with some timeline reporting based on calls to local law enforcement officers and some information available from federal sources.
Exxon has said it shut the pipeline down within 16 minutes of learning of the spill. The Faulkner County sheriff's dispatch records, in this account, show it received its first report of leaking oil at 2:44 p.m. on Good Friday and Exxon was first called at 3:19 p.m. At 3:46 p.m., local officials said Exxon told them the line had been shut.
But read the link. There's a welter of conflicting information, but the reporting there indicates a federal agency is standing by its records that indicated Exxon reported a problem on the line as early as 1:15 p.m. and that Exxon's own reports, contradicted by a spokesman, show oil may have been released for as long as three hours.
More puzzle parts. Among many. The point?
The Exxon oil spill in Arkansas once again brings to the forefront issues of pipeline safety as President Obama weighs a decision on permitting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would bisect the nation from Canada to Texas. If built, TransCanada's Keystone would carry almost ten times more Canadian heavy oils and dilbit than the Exxon pipeline that burst in Mayflower. It would also be buried in the Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest and most important sources of fresh water for drinking and agriculture in the nation.
It is not an easy task for pipeline operators in control rooms hundreds of miles away to identify leaks and ruptures from digital data flowing in from many kinds of sensors on the line. Even if an alarm is triggered, analysts examine the data to determine the cause.
Thanks again to Tree Hugger for useful roundups of many sources of information on the ongoing storyl