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Health Issues Plague Victims of Pipeline Spills


BitumenIn late November, at the New Orleans Pipeline Safety Trust Conference, homeowners shared their pipeline spill experiences to industry insiders .

Exxon’s Pegasus pipeline burst in Mayflower, Arkansas on March 29 and released approximately 7,000 barrels of diluted bitumen.  Bitumen is diluted with a mixture of undisclosed toxic emulsifiers to help it flow through pipelines. In fact, the specifics about bitumen seem to be a mystery to homeowners, government officials, and first responders.

Homeowners Ann Jarrell, David Gallagher, and Jennifer Baker each gave presentations and the conference to communicate the true impact the pipelines have on lives.

For example, Ann Jarrell and her family lived in Mayflower, just outside the evacuation zone set by government officials. Jarrell thinks the zone was too small and didn’t reflect the fact the pipeline was carrying diluted bitumen, a substance far more toxic then crude oil.

After being told to stay in their home because there was no real risk to them, Jarrell and her family are suffering from health issues after breathing in toxins for weeks. On August 20th, Jarrell went to her doctor because she was having difficulty breathing. After examining her, her doctor told her not to return home. After a few days away, Jarrell began to feel better, but she says her doctor advised her not to return because she would quickly become ill again if she breathed in more of the same toxins.

In the coming weeks, TransCanada will inject about three million barrels of an undisclosed type of oil into its line. If there is an accident or emergency, local officials and first responders won’t have the proper information on hand to deal with a diluted bitumen spill. The chemical mixtures used to dilute bitumen are being treated as a trade secret, so they can’t be analyzed.

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