Citizen activists urge Cedar Creek Lake residents to 'make noise' about pipeline

SEVEN POINTS -- About 60 people showed up for a town hall meeting about the failed 65-year-old Pegasus Pipeline running through Cedar Creek Lake. Public Citizen and Safe Community Alliance sponsored the forum on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Seven Points Recreation Center. It featured speakers who warned residents about the risk of a local environmental catastrophe if the pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil transporting diluted tar sands bitumen is allowed to resume operation after it is repaired from a disastrous rupture in Arkansas six months ago. The pipeline runs through the communities of Kemp, Mabank, Gun Barrel City, Seven Points and under the lake and through Tom Finley Park. "We feel like it might not be a matter of if, but when there is a tar sands spill," said Rita Beving, a Texas-based lobbyist with Public Citizen, a national Washington, D.C.-based group. Beving urged residents who are concerned about the antiquated pipeline to complain to local city and county officials, water district officials and state legislators. "You've got to make enough noise to get their attention," Beving said. Beving said residents need to ask their public officials if they are prepared for an emergency response and an evacuation if there should be such an environmental disaster on Cedar Creek Lake. A request for a show of hands at the meeting revealed no one identifying themselves as a public official, although one member of the East Cedar Creek Lake Fresh Water Supply Board of Directors was in the audience. Organizers of the meeting said they invited public officials, including representatives of the Tarrant Regional Water District, to attend. "We were told Saturdays were not good," said Steven Joseph DaSilva, one of the founders of Safe Community Alliance. "They seem to be assuaged by the line Exxon Mobil has given them." Exxon Mobil officials contend that the company manages its pipelines with advanced technology that conforms to federal regulations. The speakers included Arkansas residents who witnessed the March 2013 spill in Mayflower on Lake Conway that poured 200,000 gallons of the petroleum product into a neighborhood before it ran into the lake. The pipeline ruptured as a result of its age and the pressure inside it, according to the speakers. The area remains contaminated after months of clean-up efforts with only 84,000 gallons of the toxic material collected. The spill exposed the Arkansas residents to the carcinogen benzene and six other dangerous chemicals, according to Environmental Working Group's report "Poisons in the Pipeline." Residents reported a "horrible smell" and being unable to breathe and experiencing burning in their throats, noses and eyes, the report said. The pipeline was shutdown by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration after the spill. Exxon Mobil officials want to reopen the pipeline once repairs are made, according to opponents of it who are organizing a petition drive to shut it down permanently. ExxonMobil officials have declined interviews about the pipeline, but they contend in written statements that the company manages its pipelines with advanced technology that conforms to federal regulations, according to a recent report in The Dallas Morning News. The inspections include monitoring by aircraft and interior pipeline devices. Prior to the spill in Arkansas, few people in the Cedar Creek Lake area realized the pipeline runs through the outskirts of Mabank, Gun Barrel City, and Seven Points on its way to Corsicana, and then to Beaumont and Nederland, Texas. Its route takes it under the middle of Cedar Creek Lake. It runs past Mabank High School, 505 Ranch Estates and the polo field, underneath Gun Barrel City Airpark's tarmac, through Harbor Point Estates, under Tom Finley Park and under Cedar Creek Lake Reservoir. The pipeline was built in 1948, almost 20 years before Cedar Creek Lake was constructed in the mid-1960s. It was designed for the transport of diesel oil, but ExxonMobil purged the system in 2002, then reversed the flow and started transporting sand tars bitumen in 2006. The substance, which is a mined material that resembles asphalt, contains neurotoxins and carcinogens, according to the environmental organization. The substance is processed to remove the sand so it can be used for petroleum products. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released a 630-page redacted report on inline testing of the portion of the pipeline running from Arkansas to Corsicana, according to the group. The document was made available by the efforts of U.S. Rep.Tim Griffin of Arkansas ( griffin-releases-new-mayflower-pre-spill-reports-and-data-after-receiving-phmsa). It was prepared for ExxonMobil Pipeline Company by NDT Systems and Services. Inc. The report lists thousands of anomalies on 206 pages, according to the group The group maintains that based on the report there are at least eight problems that were discovered in the ½"-wall of the pipeline under Cedar Creek Lake. The roughly one mile of pipeline that runs from the water's edge, under Tom Finley park, through the neighborhood of Harbor Point Estates, and then underneath the Gun Barrel City Airpark tarmac had as many as twenty six anomalies. Here the pipe is 3/8" thick, or less. The group has reported problems that include mill anomalies, an internal problem that resulted during the pipe's manufacture; metal loss anomalies, most of which are the result of corrosion, and long seam anomalies, problems along the lengthwise joint where the pipe was welded. The group claims that ExxonMobil Pipeline Company knew about these problems by the end of 2010, yet they continued to risk the health and safety of this and many communities by continuing to pump diluted tar sands bitumen through their unsafe pipeline. A similar spill occurred in 2010 in Michigan when a pipeline owned by Embridge ruptured spilling 840,000 gallons of diluted tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. The river remains contaminated three years later, according to environmentalists. Pictured is Rita Beving of Public Citizen speaking at the town hall meeting.

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Fishing Report from TPWD (May 31)

GOOD. Water normal stain; 72-75 degrees; 0.23 feet above pool. Crappie continue to be excellent on brush piles and boat docks are producing great numbers. Focus on brush in 12-16 feet on the main lake. Minnows are starting to work but the jig bite is most consistent. White bass and hybrids are excellent schooling in the early mornings all over the lake. Best mornings are cloudy with a touch of wind. Main lake points and humps are producing fish using silver slabs. Keep an eye out for the birds! Largemouth are good early morning top water baits producing fish as well as chatterbaits and spinnerbaits. As the sun rises, focus on deeper docks close to main lake points. Brush piles are also holding a few bass, Carolina rigs, shakey heads are best. Report by Kyle Miers, Lake Country Outfitters.

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