On Friday, March 29, an Exxon Mobil pipeline ruptured in Mayflower, Ark., releasing thousands of barrels of Canadian Wabasca heavy crude oil into neighboring areas. Almost two dozen homes were evacuated following the spill, but the wild residents of the area had little chance to escape.
Within hours, the first birds and animals caught in the spill were being brought to the HAWK Center north of London, to be cleaned of the sticky toxic substance.
Executive Director of the HAWK Center, Lynne Slater, is an adjunct instructor at Ozarks and has a close relationship with Ozarks’ Planet Club. She sent out the call for volunteers and Lauren Ray, a senior environmental studies major from Siloam Springs, Ark, and Planet Club president, immediately began arranging a convoy to the center.
"As soon as we learned the HAWK Center needed volunteers, Heather Hall and I jumped on the opportunity to get a group of students together to go over and help," Ray explained.
The volunteers drove down on Monday afternoon, intending to help clean the oil from the animals. However, their duties at the HAWK Center turned out to be different than they anticipated.
"We originally expected to be washing and working directly with the oiled birds," Ray said. "but we found out that new restrictions had been implemented Monday morning regarding who was allowed to handle oiled wildlife. Only HAZMAT-endorsed individuals were allowed to handle the birds, so our role when we got to HAWK Center was quite different than we had intended."
Even though they weren’t directly handling the animals, Ray said the operational support they were able to provide helped those who were focus their efforts on the rescue. "We dropped off supplies and monetary donations gathered on campus, photographed and filmed Lynne and her crew as they cleaned the oiled birds, interviewed the workers and learned more about the oil spill and its impact on local wildlife. We passed along those updates to people on campus and in the community," she said.
U of O students (from left) Lauren Ray, Andrea Avalos, and Samantha Going were among the volunteers from Ozarks who assisted the HAWK Center with their efforts to rescue wildlife caught in the recent oil spill in Mayflower.
As an environmental studies major, Ray was particularly impacted by the scenes at the HAWK Center and moved by their dedication to helping each animal.
"Seeing these birds plastered in thick tar sands oil and also the effort that it takes to clean it off, made me realize how significant the impact of this oil spill is. It is going to take a lot of time, money, and manpower to clean up Mayflower, to rehabilitate affected wildlife, and to get evacuated families back into their homes," Ray said.
Ray encouraged everyone to learn more about the work of the HAWK Center, and to consider making a donation in support of their work. She said Slater will be on campus during the university’s upcoming Earth Week, giving presentations on Saturday, April 13, at the Spring Greening Festival and again on Tuesday, April 16, in Baldor Auditorium.
"We’d like to encourage anybody who attends these presentations to bring some sort of donation for the HAWK Center. They do wonderful work, and as a non-profit organization, they rely completely on volunteers and donations," she explained.
According to Slater, Wildlife Response Services had officially taken over care of all of the oiled animals as of Tuesday. "All oiled wild animals from the Mayflower spill should NOW be reported to 1-800-876-9291," she posted on the center’s facebook page.
For more photographs from the rescue efforts or to learn more about the HAWK Center, visit their facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/hawkcenter.
Topics: Community Service