The Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group conducted independent tests on the air and water from Lake Conway in response to the Exxon tar sands oil spill, and presented the findings during a Townhall gathering in Mayflower, Arkansas this week. Residents were alarmed by what they heard.
John Hammons lives near an area known as "The Cove," a body of water sitting across from Lake Conway in Mayflower.
"We can smell it. So I know it's there," Hammons said, who is concerned about his three children and wife, who is seven months pregnant.
"She's broken out in hives, had nose bleeds, (and) respiratory problems," he explained.
The Hammons were among a group of concerned people in the area who met for the town hall meeting.
Chemist Wilma Subra said ExxonMobil is being attentive to those inside the Northwoods subdivision, where thousands of gallons of heavy crude oil spilled nearly one month ago, but others in the area have suffered with little attention.
"There's a population all around that's been made very, very sick by the emissions," Subra said.
To evaluate the situation, Subra independently analyzed air and water data captured from the Lake Conway area, claiming the carcinogen Benzene is present in the region.
While Exxon denies the claims, State health officials are saying the same thing as Exxon -- that "all air quality tests returned safe levels for people in the area."
Yet Subra's claims were echoed by Scott Smith of OPFLEX Solutions, a company that offers solutions for absorbing oil. Smith's preliminary findings indicate the presence of tar sands oil in Lake Conway, both in "the cove" of Lake Conway and in the larger lake beyond the cove.
Also, InsideClimate News has reported that the oil spill probe has fallen to an understaffed governmental agency with close ties to the oil industry, including PHMSA administrator Cynthia Quarterman, for example, having served as legal counsel for Enbridge, the culprit in the Michigan spill, before moving to her current position at the federal agency.
You can view a series of recordings taken by an attendee of Mayflower's Town Hall meeting if you just click here.