Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Essay

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Essay

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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

ABSTRACT

     In March of 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef
in Prince William Sound, Alaska. An eighteen foot wide hole was ripped into the
hull, and 10.9 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the ocean. In the
following weeks, many things transpired. This paper will discuss the cleanup,
the damage, and the results of the biggest oil spill in United States history.


     On March 24, 1989, in Prince William Sound Alaska, the Exxon Valdez was
moving South West after leaving Port Valdez. The ship was carrying over fifty
million gallons of crude oil. When the Valdez was only twenty-eight miles from
the port, it ran aground on Bligh reef. The bottom was ripped open, and 10.9
million gallons of North Slope Crude Oil spilled into the frozen Alaskan waters
at a rate of two hundred thousand gallons per minute. The remaining forty-two
million gallons were off loaded. In the ensuing days, more than 1,200 miles of
shoreline were hit with oil. This area included four National Wildlife Refugees,
three National Parks, and Chugach National Forest.
     Within hours, smaller tanker vessels arrived in order to off load the
remaining oil. Unfortunately, the cleanup effort was hindered by an inadequate
cleanup plan that had been created during the 1970's. These plans outlined how
an oil spill would be handled, including provisions for maintaining equipment
such as containment booms and "skimmer boats." The plans also called for a
response team to be on twenty-four hour notice. Unfortunately, the plans were
good on paper only. A spill of this size had not been anticipated. Therefore,
the response teams had been demobilized, and the equipment that was supposed to
be ready at all times was either too far away or nonexistent.. Precious hours
were also wasted as Corporations, the Alaskan State Government, and the National
government argued over who should take control of the situation. The arguments
ensued after debates over who would pay for what, who was responsible for what,
and who would do the best job.
     The local fishermen were a big help with the cleanup effort. They
battled with the oil in order to protect their industry. Many fisherman were
seen in row-boats in the small coastal inlets. The fishermen work...


... middle of paper ...


...industry in Alaska, so there has been
much concern over the welfare of the fish. Many natives also live by
subsistence fishing. Pink salmon and herring were the two species that people
were most concerned about. Pink salmon is the biggest commercial fish in
Alaskan waters, many people were afraid that the salmon population would need
years to recover, however, studies have shown that the effect of the oil on
spawning, eggs, and fry was negligible. Chromatography tests have also shown
that there are no hydrocarbons in the flesh of most of the fish. Those that do
have hydrocarbons in their flesh have a level that is so low as to be measured
in the parts per billion range. Herring is also a huge commercial fish in
Alaska. The 1988 catch yielded twelve point three million dollars. In 1989,
after the spill, herring was declared "off limits" to fishermen. However, this
was compensated by a salmon catch that was six times as big as it had been in
1988. In 1990, when herring fishing resumed, it returned to normal levels. The
damage to the fishing industry was not nearly as bad as had been anticipated.
Usha Varanasi, director of the NOAA's Environmental Conservation Division in S

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