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Cleanup efforts continue in Arkansas oil spill

| Monday, April 1, 2013, 8:00 p.m.

MAYFLOWER, Ark. — Crews are continuing cleanup efforts in central Arkansas for an ExxonMobil pipeline that ruptured and spewed crude oil onto lawns and roadways late last week.

Officials said they've recovered about 12,000 barrels of oil and water since the Pegasus pipeline burst on Friday in Mayflower, about 20 miles northwest of Little Rock.

ExxonMobil and local officials said they've found two dead ducks, along with 10 oiled ducks that are to be treated in Russellville.

Workers in yellow suits waded into an oil-soaked lawn on Monday as they attempted to clean up part of the area where the spill began.

The air still smells like gasoline, but officials say it's getting better. The spill led authorities to evacuate nearly two dozen homes in a subdivision where the pipe burst.

The spill has stoked discussion about the environmental dangers of using aging pipelines to transport heavy crude from Canada, including tar sands, as a boom in oil and gas production in North America increases volumes moving across the continent.

The Pegasus line, which can transport more than 90,000 barrels per day of crude from Patoka, Ill., to Nederland, Texas, was carrying Canadian Wabasca Heavy crude at the time of the leak, a bitumen oil from Pelican Lake field in northern Alberta. It needs to be blended with lighter oils or natural gas liquids to flow through pipelines.

“An influx of tar sands on the U.S. pipeline network poses greater risks to pipeline integrity, challenges for leak detection systems and significantly increased impacts to sensitive water resources,” environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council said in an email.

Exxon had no information on when the pipeline last underwent maintenance.

An oil spill of more than 1,000 barrels in Wisconsin last summer kept an Enbridge Inc. pipeline offline for about 10 days.

In November 2010, the Department of Transportation slapped ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. with a fine of $26,200 for allegedly allowing more than 5 years to lapse between inspections of a stretch of Pegasus that underlies the Mississippi River, between Missouri and Illinois, last decade.

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