ExxonMobil demolishes two homes in oil-tainted Mayflower neighborhood

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<p>LOG CABIN DEMOCRAT PHOTO</p><p>Crews demolish a house Monday in a Mayflower subdivision where a ExxonMobil pipeline ruptured in March, spilling thousands of gallons of oil.</p>

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MAYFLOWER — ExxonMobil Corp. demolished two homes Monday in a Mayflower neighborhood where thousands of gallons of oil spilled when a pipeline ruptured last spring.

The homes in the Northwoods Subdivision were never cleared for re-entry after the spill because oil permeated their foundations, said ExxonMobil spokesman Aaron Stryk.

Stryk said ExxonMobil purchased the homes and decided recently to demolish them to clear away the oil.

ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline burst March 29, spewing 210,000 gallons of crude and forcing dozens of residents from their homes. The company has since said a manufacturing defect caused the rupture.

Elected officials in the region and members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation have pressed the company to release safety information about the pipeline and also have called on ExxonMobil to move the pipeline from the Lake Maumelle Watershed, which serves as the source of drinking water for more than 400,000 Central Arkansas residents.

Exxon purchased one of the homes that was demolished Monday from owner Charles Williams on Aug. 26 for $151,000, according to the Faulkner County assessor’s website. Williams purchased the property in 2009 for $130,000. The house on the lot was built in 2006, according to assessor information.

The second home demolished Monday was purchased by Exxon Aug. 21 at a price slightly lower than the amount homeowners paid about a year before the oil spill.

According to records, Jose Modica and Daneshia Roberts-Modica bought the house in 2012 for $180,000, and it was bought by Exxon for $177,000. The house on that property was also built in 2006, according to records.

Since Exxon rolled out an extensive property purchase program for the entire Northwoods neighborhood in the month after the spill, the company has closed five deals, Stryk said. Not all five are among the 22 homes that were evacuated because of the oil spill.

He said the company is in negotiations with the owner of a third home that was never cleared for re-entry by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and Mayflower Unified Command.

Stryk said there is oil under the property, which is on a slight incline above the two demolished homes, and nearer to the rupture site.

Assessor information shows the property is owned by Greg Doster, and was purchased in 2006 for $165,000.

Stryk said Exxon does not yet own the property and is talking with the owner about the “next step,” which the spokesman said might not necessarily be to demolish the home.

At the demolition site Monday, Stryk said the company was performing air and seismic monitoring as a precaution.

He said the decision to demolish the two homes was determined to be the most effective and efficient way to remove contaminated soil. He said he did not have information about the depth of the excavation.

Stryk said new soil would be brought in and that the lots would be sodded and remain as green space.

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