By Alison Sider
A Federal Aviation Administration no-fly zone is in place over Mayflower, Ark., where a ruptured pipeline leaked thousands of barrels of oil into a residential neighborhood.
The temporary flight restriction has been place since Monday, according to the FAA website. Lynn Lunsford, a spokesman for the FAA, said it applies only to aircraft operating below 1,000 feet above the ground.
Mr. Lunsford said local disaster response officials requested the restriction on flights because they are using "at least one" helicopter to move crews and to spot oil that can't be seen from the ground.
"The pilot of the helicopter needs to be able to move about freely without potential conflicts with other aircraft," Mr. Lunsford wrote in an email. He said similar restrictions are regularly put in place when aircraft are used in disaster response.
The agency is in the process of amending the restriction to allow news media aircraft into the area, Mr. Lunsford said.
The cause of the spill from Exxon Mobil Corp.'s (XOM) Pegasus pipeline is still not known.
The spill, which the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration estimated at 3,500 to 5,000 barrels, prompted the evacuation of 22 homes. Exxon said Wednesday that crews had started working to replace soil in the neighborhood that had been soaked with oil from the pipeline, and that state health authorities will determine when the residents can return to their homes.
The federal pipeline regulators issued a corrective action order against Exxon Tuesday, barring the company from restarting the 95,000-barrel-a-day pipeline until the line has been closely inspected and the agency gives its permission. Exxon has said it will excavate a portion of the line to take a closer look.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Tuesday that his office would open an investigation into the incident.
--Tom Fowler contributed to this article.
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