Last April, a ruptured pipeline spilled at least 5,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil into an Arkansas community, forcing residents to evacuate their homes. Determining that Exxon Mobil Pipeline Co. committed nine probable safety violations, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is holding the company responsible to the tune of a proposed $2.66 million fine.
A report commissioned by Exxon identified the root cause of the failure as hook-shaped cracks along the seams of the pipe, which was manufactured in the 1940s. Those cracks come from an outdated welding process not used since the 1970s, but they can still be found on thousands of miles of pipelines across the U.S.
In a notice released Wednesday, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said Exxon should have known the pipe would be susceptible to seam failure because the company detected problems in 1991, 2005 and 2006.
Exxon didn't retest the pipeline often enough and didn't focus on sections that run near homes and drinking-water sources, the agency said, adding that the company didn't act quickly enough on anomalies in the pipe found in 2010.
An Exxon spokesman said it was disappointed with the fine, calling PHMSA's analysis flawed.
"The agency has made some fundamental errors," the spokesman added.
As Salon first posted last spring, here's what Mayflower, Ark., looked like when the pipe ruptured: