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The Exxon Valdez oil spill in the Prince William Sound of Alaska proved to be a disaster on many levels. The coastline, wildlife, and people of the all area were all devastated by the spill. Ten years later, the area is showing remarkable progress. Because of the cleanup efforts and new regulations, the Sound is getting ever closer to recovery. A few minutes after midnight on March 24, 1989, the T/V Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. A few minutes later the coast guard received a radio message from the ships captain, Joseph Hazelwood: Weve fetched up ah hard aground north of Goose Island off Bligh Reef, and ah evidently leaking some oil.
Were going to be here for a while. (Knickerbocker, Big Spill 12) That radio call was the beginning of the worst oil spill in United States history. The some oil that Hazelwood was referring to ended up being an estimated 11 million gallons of crude oil. The oil covered nearly 1, 300 miles of shoreline and eventually reached beaches 470 miles away. (McAllister C 14). At the time of the spill, officials had no immediate plan for cleaning up the oil. The spill struck in a remote part of a state where the population of caribou easily outnumbers people. Spokesman for the Govoners office David Ramseur agreed.
You need a lot of people and a lot of equipment, and we dont have enough. (McAllister C 14) At the time, that statement was sadly true. The area just wasnt prepared to handle a spill of that magnitude. Other than the coastline, the spill also effected the local residents of the area, primarily the regions wildlife. The spill ultimately killed more than 250, 000 seabirds, at least 2, 800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 150 bald eagles, and 14 to 22 killer whales, along with billions of herring eggs. (number 6) This proved to be equally detrimental to the 7, 200 human residents of Southern Alaska. The fishing port at Cordova was the nations seventh most lucrative fishing harbor the year before the spill. It averaged $ 44 million in revenue each year.
Four years after the spill in 1993, it slipped to number 51 with earnings down $ 19 million from 1988. The city also faced other severe losses. A former mayor committed suicide, and the city has gone through six mental health directors. (Murphy E 1) Clean up efforts were almost as massive as the spill itself. During most of 1989, the focus of the project was containing and cleaning up the spill and rescuing oiled wildlife. Specially rigged boats called Skimmers were used to remove the oil from the water.
Containment buoys called boons were set up to prevent the oil from reaching the salmon hatcheries that were an essential part of the areas economy. (Opdyke B 1) Efforts including thousands of workers and a fleet of private fishing vessels worked admittedly to clean up the spill. After the initial clean up in 1989, there was still a lot of work to be done. In 1990, the shoreline was once again evaluated and a special technique called bioremediation (applying fertilizers to oiled shoreline to speed up oil-metabolizing microbes) was used on the sections of the sound where oil still remained. (Opdyke B 1) All told, the spill proved to be the most costly in history. In addition to the 2. 2 billion dollars it had to spend on the cleanup, Exxon was now faced with thousands upon thousands of civil law suits.
A settlement reached between Exxon and federal and state governments cost the corporation nearly a billion dollars. In September of 1994, a jury found in favor of 40, 000 people, including commercial fishermen, and other Alaskan residents, and awarded them 5. 3 billion dollars in damages. (Reuters F 8) According to Exxon lawyer John Daum, The award is 200 times the largest award ever affirmed by any federal court anywhere. All of this money presented a new question, how to spend it? Legal mandates made sure that the billion-dollar settlement would be spent on projects related to the recovery of the region. The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council (EVOSTC) had the job of doing just that.
The EVOSTC decided to spend the money on the acquisition of threatened habitat along the Prince William Sound to protect it from logging and other developments. Other EVOSTC projects include scientific studies, continued shoreline cleanup and educational projects. (Reuters F 8) Today the sound has made drastic improvements from its devastated state in 1989. Almost of the wildlife species effected by the spill have completely recovered, and another is nearing complete recovery. (Murphy E 1) Hatchery fish have recovered to about 87 % of their numbers before the spill. Frank Shadow, Exxon's vice president for environment and safety feels confident in the recovery, not only by the wildlife but also by the inhabitants of the region... We did make every effort to compensate those people that were damaged... One of the very first things we did was to ask fishermen in Cordova Whats your annual fishing revenue?
Theyd say X. And wed say, For a start, heres X. (Murphy E 1) Along with the monetary compensation for fishermen, Exxon also set up job placement and training centers in Cordova. This was an extremely helpful tool, considering that the major industry in the city had been debilitated by the spill. Probably the most important thing to come out of the Exxon Valdez Spill, were the significant improvements that have been made in oil spill prevention and response planning. These programs include: satellite tracking of tankers in the area, escort vessels to aid in navigating the channel, legislation that requires a double-hull structures for all tankers that enter the sound; a step that would have likely reduced the amount of water that spilled from the Valdez by. (Richards B 1) The one thing that officials in Prince William Sound will never be criticized for will be their lack of preparation. Today, there are contingency plans for oil spills in the sound that include a scenario for a spill of 12. 6 million gallons.
The combined ability of skimming systems to remove oil from the water is now 10 times greater than it was in 1989. Supplies and vessels for cleaning up oil are now stockpiled and drills are held in the sound each year. (Richards B 1) We have an extremely safe system here feels Vince Mitchell, vessel operations team leader for the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System. Its been a continuo's improvement process... Were really focusing on prevention.
Thats where the real benefit is. (Knickerbocker, Preventing 12) Prince William Sound will never be returned to the way it was before the spill. But things are moving in the right direction. With the money received from settlements, the wildlife, inhabitants, and environment are on a steadfast track toward recovery. With money received through court settlements the EVOSTC has been able to protect 650, 000 acres for wildlife habitat. (Knickerbocker, Preventing 12) Most importantly, the area has become aware of the fact that preparation is paramount in the protection of the sound.
Through proper training and adequate response techniques, industry officials are now able to feel confident in their oil spill prevention measures. While it hasnt recovered yet, the sound is constantly improving and will some day soon regain its former grander. Bibliography: Works Cited Knickerbocker, Brad. Preventing Another Monster Oil Slick. Christian Science Monitor: 23 March 1999: 12 Knickerbocker, Brad. The Big Spill.
Christian Science Monitor: 22 March 1999: 12 McAllister, Bill. Killer Spill. Washington Post: 25 March 1999: C 14 Murphy, Kim. Alaska Struggles to Recover, 10 Years After Exxon Valdez. Las Angeles Times: 20 March 1999: E 1 + Opdyke, Jeff. In The Wake Of Valdez.
Wall Street Journal: 26 August 1999: B 1 Reuters, J. Exxon Spill Funds Spent Properly. Washington Post: 13 September 1998: F 8 Richards, Bill. Exxon Is Battling a Ban on an Infamous Tanker. Wall Street Journal: 29 July 1998: B 1
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Research essay sample on Prince William Sound Christian Science Monitor