For the residents of Mayflower, Arkansas, the Exxon Pegasus pipeline that ran beneath their homes was long-forgotten, that was until the pipeline burst open, flooding the streets and waterways with toxic chemicals.
The Mayflower rupture focused the attention on to the 2.5 million miles of pipeline criss-crossing the USA. Over 50 percent of these pipes carrying chemicals are more than 50 years-old and beginning to show their age, cracking and splitting, releasing their toxic petroleum’s with devastating effects.
“Your eyes would burn, your throat would burn, your lungs would burn”, says Genevieve Long. Her family suffered health problems after the pipeline near her home burst, spilling a toxic torrent of heavy chemicals through the town and its nearby waterways. “The nation’s pipeline network has been subject to benign neglect over most of its last 20 to 30 years”, says Ed Hirs, a lecturer on energy economics at the University of Houston. Without the piplines many ask how America’s insatiable demand for fuel will be met. But for those affected, the consequences of this failing infrastructure are dire. “It goes everywhere and there is no technology to clean it.”
In this film, David O’Shea travels to Mayflower to report on the prolonged and contentious clean-up operation, that is still incomplete six months after the spill. He follows the high-profile protest against a new, even bigger, pipeline currently being built from Canada to the US Gulf Coast.
Many critics state the project is both an environmental time bomb and of questionable economic benefit. But without the pipelines, others ask how the nations insatiable demand for fuel will be met.