April 8 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp said work began on Sunday to excavate and cut out the section of the affected crude oil pipeline that ruptured in late March in a neighbourhood in Mayflower, Arkansas, forcing residents to evacuate their homes.
The company's Pegasus pipeline, which can transport more than 90,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude oil to Texas from Illinois, ruptured on March 29 in a subdivision in Mayflower, Arkansas, about 20 miles northeast of Little Rock.
"An excavation and removal plan for the affected portion of the pipeline has been submitted for review by the U.S. Department of Transportation," the company said.
Exxon said cleanup of the North Woods subdivision progressed on Monday and that four residents have been given the option to start moving back in to their homes.
Twenty-two affected homes were evacuated shortly after the pipeline rupture and Exxon said on Monday, the residents of the remaining 18 homes will be given the option to return in phases as their properties are cleaned.
The company said two cleaned raccoons and 10 turtles were released into the Bell Slough State Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to Mayflower on Monday, marking the first release of wildlife since the March 29 incident.
"Sixteen oiled ducks are being cleaned and will be released in a few weeks. A skunk and a beaver will be released later this week," Exxon said in a statement.
Twenty-three ducks, a nutria, and five turtles have died so far due to the incident.
The cause of the spill continues to be under investigation, the company said. (Reporting by Koustav Samanta in Bangalore; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer; firstname.lastname@example.org; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 80 4135 5800; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)