Residents claim oil spill starting to impact health

MAYFLOWER (KATV) - Right after the oil leak started, residents were evacuated from their homes and they're still not allowed to go back home.

However, a couple miles away others weren't evacuated, but they can smell the oil. Now some believe they're feeling its effects.

"This stuff may be long-term, especially with benzene in the air," said Mayflower resident Kirby Higgs about the recent air quality tests that revealed the petrochemical in the air-system.

Higgs lives along the banks of Lake Conway, and since that oil started leaking out he said he's been dealing with health issues.

"Bad sinus problems, you can by looking at my eyes. They're burning," he said pointing to the redness in his eyes.

Higgs even mentioned the smell is affecting his dog. He said the animal normally loves to be outside, but in the last week won't stay outside for more than a few minutes.

Just a few blocks away on Dam Road in Mayflower, Ed and Sherry Appleman are feeling similar symptoms.

"I fell asleep with my bedroom window open last Saturday night, and woke up in the middle of the night because I couldn't breathe," Sherry Appleman said.

The outside smell especially doesn't sit well with Mr. Appleman's battle against lung cancer. The couple explained it has also turned their outside deck, overlooking Lake Conway, into an unpleasant place to sit.

The most disturbing part to them is the lack of awareness from Exxon.

"When they started pumping the oil into this slew over here," said Mrs. Appleman as she pointed across the street, "nobody came knocking on our doors to evacuate us."

Members of the Natural Resources Defense Council from its Washington, D.C. office were in Mayflower during the weekend documenting residents' health issues, because they don't see it getting done.

"I haven't seen a lot of health authorities going into the neighborhoods and asking people directly, knocking on doors trying to find out well what are people experiencing in terms of their health," said Rocky Kistner with NRDC.

"I just don't see that happening."

Those people we talked to told us Exxon offered to pay for doctor's expenses, but possible long-term effects have them pondering legal action instead.

Kistner also mentioned residents should expect clean-up to last for more than just another year. He referenced a mirror-image burst in Kalamazoo, Mich. that happened three years ago, but where clean-up continues.

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