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Senia, who claims the neighborhood's proximity to the oil pipeline was not disclosed to him when he bought his house, said he thinks no one will want to buy a home in the Northwoods subdivision for a very long time. He estimated that half the neighbors he's talked to said they want to move out.
"Even if not a single drop of oil got on my property, because my address is on that street, I just think no one is going to buy that house now," he said. "Even if I'm not personally scared of contamination, a buyer might be unless there is someone to document the cleanup process, and know that everything was removed."
Since the spill, Senia's been educating himself about pipeline safety. He said he hopes other residents will talk to reporters who are trying to cover the spill.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel toured the Northwoods subdivision on April 3, and called the scene "very disturbing."
"The people in the surrounding communities are very concerned about what this will do to their health and property values," McDaniel said. "I still remain with more questions than answers. I have yet to be told what the opinion of the company is with regard to the cause of the rupture to begin with. I've yet to be told when their last inspection was. I've yet to be told when they first identified that section of pipeline as having some integrity questions."
McDaniel, like many others who have visited the site, said he came away with a headache that lingered into the next day, which he credited to the fumes there. He said his thanks and sympathies go out to both the homeowners who have been displaced, and to the cleanup workers.
McDaniel had told members of the media that they could "tag along" as he took his tour of the neighborhood. Ninety seconds into the tour, however, Faulkner County sheriff's deputies appeared and told reporters they would have to leave. One of the reporters who was there, KUAR's Michael Hibblen, said that reporters were threatened with arrest if they didn't comply. Hibblen has audio of at least part of the encounter with deputies.
In the audio segment, a voice Hibblen identified as that of Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson directs media members to stand near a yellow pole. Thirty seconds later, however, another voice says: "You all have to go. Sorry. Exxon media, uh, Mobil has changed their minds. You have to leave."
"The Faulkner County deputies started telling us 'ExxonMobil doesn't want you here and you have to leave.' " Hibblen said. He said the deputies became "more agitated" after reporters began asking to speak to someone in charge, and the deputies then told them they had "ten seconds to leave" or they would be arrested. Hibblen said he'd already turned his tape recorder off by the time reporters were threatened with arrest.
"It did raise the question of who is running the show," Hibblen said.
Hibblen returned to the neighborhood for a media tour held by ExxonMobil on Sunday, April 7 (the Arkansas Times didn't receive a notice of the tour), but said it was "disturbing" that the press wasn't given a tour of the spill site for nine days.
McDaniel said that during his tour on April 3, he and their staff were there "doing our jobs," so he didn't get involved when the press was removed from the site. "I was not told why the press was turned away," McDaniel said. "We were asked by the press if they could tag along with us, but we told the press that they were on their own for credentials, and whatever they go to do on a normal day, they should be able to do."
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