UPDATE: We asked, you answered. We’ve reached our goal. Many, many thanks to all those who contributed large and small! We can’t wait to move forward.
We’ve entered the home stretch of Muckraking the Mayflower Oil Spill, our crowdfunding project with InsideClimate News. We’re raising money to bring two reporters to Mayflower for a deep investigation into the clean-up efforts and future of the Pegasus Pipeline.
Today, we crossed the $20,000 threshold on crowdfunding. That leaves us with $5,600 and five days to reach our goal by June 19. Already, those who’ve contributed have ensured the project will go forward. Thanks!
Sam Eifling, the Arkansas native who’s written for the likes of Slate and Deadspin (and writes movie reviews for the Times), starts on Wednesday. Elizabeth McGowan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for InsideClimate News, gets here in early August.
They’re eager to get to work and continue to build on the excellent reporting that InsideClimate News has done largely from afar. But to ensure Sam and Elizabeth are able to stay in Mayflower to thoroughly cover the spill, we need to reach our goal. If you believe this is an important story that deserves deeper coverage, we hope you’ll consider giving (it’s tax deductible!).
Speaking of ICN’s excellent coverage, today Lisa Song and Shruti Ravindran report on heavy metal contamination from the spill.
The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the pipeline operator, ExxonMobil, have found that most of the heavy metals in the cove and the main body of the lake are below levels of concern. Their testing is incomplete, however, because so far they’ve sampled only the water, not the soils or lake sediment.
Even when all the tests are done, health experts say it will be almost impossible to predict the long-term effects on residents, because little is known about how mixtures of heavy metals break down and change in the environment over time.
Joseph Graziano, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, said that in addition to determining the concentrations of heavy metals, scientists also must study if and how residents come into contact with the contaminants. “Sure, heavy metals have serious health effects,” he said. “But only if exposure takes place.”
Graziano and other experts say it’s important to know, for example, if the metals are seeping into groundwater and reaching basements or backyard gardens, and if they’re becoming more concentrated—and therefore more toxic—as they make their way up the food chain in Lake Conway.