By Kristen Hays
HOUSTON (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp was working on Friday to remove the ruptured section of its Arkansas crude oil pipeline, but had no estimate on how long repairs would take or when the line would restart.
Exxon expected to remove the damaged section this week. The company did not have a more definitive timeframe on Friday, spokeswoman Kim Jordan said.
She said the length of the portion being removed from the Pegasus pipeline that ruptured two weeks ago would be determined once excavation to reach it had finished. Exxon said that portion would be sent to an independent, third-party laboratory for metallurgy testing.
However, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who launched an investigation into the 5,000-barrel oil spill, said earlier this week that the rupture was more than 22 feet long and two inches wide.
McDaniel said his office had retained private Washington D.C. disaster-response firm Witt O'Brien's to analyze independently Exxon's cleanup process.
Some residents evacuated from their neighborhood when the rupture sent crude spilling in yards and streets have the option to return to their homes, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Health said on Friday.
"It's recommended that they go through a little bit of airing out. Their homes have been closed up," the spokesman, Ed Barham, said.
He said the affected residents in the neighborhood in Mayflower, a town about 25 miles north of Little Rock, can continue air monitoring if they so choose after their return.
Exxon said the company was developing a plan to address concerns about long-term values of the affected homes, "up to and including home purchases".
(Reporting by Kristen Hays; Editing by Dale Hudson)