HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Forums & Groups » Main » General Discussion (Forum) » 30 Years Ago Today: Exxon...

Sun Mar 24, 2019, 07:30 AM

30 Years Ago Today: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Warning: Graphic images)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill


The Exxon Baton Rouge, smaller ship, attempts to off load crude oil March 26,1989 from the Exxon Valdez. (AP Photo)

The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in Prince William Sound, Alaska, March 24, 1989, when Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker owned by Exxon Shipping Company, bound for Long Beach, California, struck Prince William Sound's Bligh Reef, 1.5 mi (2.4 km) west of Tatitlek, Alaska, at 12:04 am. local time and spilled 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl) (or 37,000 metric tonnes) of crude oil over the next few days. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters. The Valdez spill is the second largest in US waters, after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, in terms of volume released.[ Prince William Sound's remote location, accessible only by helicopter, plane, or boat, made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing response plans. The region is a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. The oil, originally extracted at the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, eventually impacted 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline, of which 200 miles (320 km) were heavily or moderately oiled with an obvious impact.

Spill
The ship was carrying 53.1 million US gallons (1,260,000 bbl; 201,000 m3) of oil, of which about 10.8 million US gallons (260,000 bbl; 41,000 m3) were spilled into the Prince William Sound.


During the first few days of the spill, heavy sheens of oil covered large areas of the surface of Prince William Sound.

Multiple factors have been identified as contributing to the incident:

Beginning three days after the vessel grounded, a storm pushed large quantities of fresh oil on to the rocky shores of many of the beaches in the Knight Island chain. In this photograph, pooled black oil is shown stranded in the rocks.

Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for Exxon Valdez. The NTSB found this was widespread throughout the industry, prompting a safety recommendation to Exxon and to the industry.

The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue or excessive workload.

Exxon Shipping Company failed to properly maintain the Raytheon Collision Avoidance System (RAYCAS) radar, which, if functional, would have indicated to the third mate an impending collision with the Bligh Reef by detecting the "radar reflector", placed on the next rock inland from Bligh Reef for the purpose of keeping ships on course. This cause was brought forward by Greg Palast and is not present in the official accident report.


Captain Joseph Hazelwood, who was widely reported to have been drinking heavily that night, was not at the controls when the ship struck the reef. Exxon blamed Captain Hazelwood for the grounding of the tanker, but Hazelwood accused the corporation of being made a scapegoat. As the senior officer in command of the ship, he was accused of being intoxicated and thereby contributing to the disaster, but he was cleared of this charge at his 1990 trial after witnesses testified that he was sober around the time of the accident. In light of the other findings, investigative reporter Greg Palast stated in 2008, "Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate never would have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his RAYCAS radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disabled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate."

Other factors, according to an MIT course entitled "Software System Safety" by Professor Nancy G. Leveson, included:

Ships were not informed that the previous practice of the Coast Guard tracking ships out to Bligh Reef had ceased.

The oil industry promised, but never installed, state-of-the-art iceberg monitoring equipment.
Exxon Valdez was sailing outside the normal sea lane to avoid small icebergs thought to be in the area.

The 1989 tanker crew was half the size of the 1977 crew, worked 12- to 14-hour shifts, plus overtime.

The crew was rushing to leave Valdez with a load of oil.

Coast Guard vessel inspections in Valdez were not performed, and the number of staff was reduced.

Lack of available equipment and personnel hampered the spill cleanup.


This disaster resulted in International Maritime Organization introducing comprehensive marine pollution prevention rules (MARPOL) through various conventions. The rules were ratified by member countries and, under International Ship Management rules, the ships are being operated with a common objective of "safer ships and cleaner oceans".

In 2009, Exxon Valdez Captain Joseph Hazelwood offered a "heartfelt apology" to the people of Alaska, suggesting he had been wrongly blamed for the disaster: "The true story is out there for anybody who wants to look at the facts, but that's not the sexy story and that's not the easy story," he said. Hazelwood said he felt Alaskans always gave him a fair shake.

Clean-up and environmental impact

Workers using high-pressure, hot-water washing to clean an oiled shoreline

Chemical dispersant, a surfactant and solvent mixture, was applied to the slick by a private company on March 24 with a helicopter. But the helicopter missed the target area. Scientific data on its toxicity were either thin or incomplete. In addition, public acceptance of a new, widespread chemical treatment was lacking. Landowners, fishing groups, and conservation organizations questioned the use of chemicals on hundreds of miles of shoreline when other alternatives may have been available."

According to a report by David Kirby for TakePart, the main component of the Corexit formulation used during cleanup, 2-butoxyethanol, was identified as "one of the agents that caused liver, kidney, lung, nervous system, and blood disorders among cleanup crews in Alaska following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.

Mechanical cleanup was started shortly afterwards using booms and skimmers, but the skimmers were not readily available during the first 24 hours following the spill, and thick oil and kelp tended to clog the equipment. Despite civilian insistence for a complete clean, only 10% of total oil was actually completely cleaned. Exxon was widely criticized for its slow response to cleaning up the disaster and John Devens, the mayor of Valdez, has said his community felt betrayed by Exxon's inadequate response to the crisis. More than 11,000 Alaska residents, along with some Exxon employees, worked throughout the region to try to restore the environment.


Clean-up efforts after the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Because Prince William Sound contained many rocky coves where the oil collected, the decision was made to displace it with high-pressure hot water. However, this also displaced and destroyed the microbial populations on the shoreline; many of these organisms (e.g. plankton) are the basis of the coastal marine food chain, and others (e.g. certain bacteria and fungi) are capable of facilitating the biodegradation of oil. At the time, both scientific advice and public pressure was to clean everything, but since then, a much greater understanding of natural and facilitated remediation processes has developed, due somewhat in part to the opportunity presented for study by the Exxon Valdez spill. Despite the extensive cleanup attempts, less than ten percent of the oil was recovered.

Both the long-term and short-term effects of the oil spill have been studied. Immediate effects included the deaths of 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, and an unknown number of salmon and herring.

Although the volume of oil has declined considerably with oil remaining only about 0.140.28% of the original spilled volume, studies suggest the area of oiled beach has changed little since 1992. A study by the National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA in Juneau, determined that by 2001 approximately 90 tonnes of oil remained on beaches in Prince William Sound in the sandy soil of the contaminated shoreline, with annualized loss rates declining from 68% per year prior to 1992, to 4% per year after 2001.


Wildlife was severely affected by the oil spill.

The remaining oil lasting far longer than anticipated has resulted in more long-term losses of species than had been expected. Laboratory experiments found that at levels as low as one part per billion, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are toxic for salmon and herring eggs. Species as diverse as sea otters, harlequin ducks and orcas suffered immediate and long-term losses. Oiled mussel beds and other tidal shoreline habitats may take up to 30 years to recover.

ExxonMobil denied concerns over remaining oil, stating that they anticipated the remaining fraction would not cause long-term ecological impacts. According to the conclusions of ExxonMobil's study: "We've done 350 peer-reviewed studies of Prince William Sound, and those studies conclude that Prince William Sound has recovered, it's healthy and it's thriving."

On March 24, 2014, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the spill, NOAA scientists reported that some species seem to have recovered, with the sea otter the latest creature to return to pre-spill numbers. Scientists who have monitored the spill area for the last 25 years report that concern remains for one of two pods of local orca whales, with fears that one pod may eventually die out. Federal scientists estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 US gallons (61 to 79 m3) of oil remains on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles (725 km) away. Some of the oil does not appear to have biodegraded at all. A USGS scientist who analyses the remaining oil along the coastline states that it remains among rocks and between tide marks. "The oil mixes with seawater and forms an emulsion...Left out, the surface crusts over but the inside still has the consistency of mayonnaise or mousse." Alaska state senator Berta Gardner is urging Alaskan politicians to demand that the US government force ExxonMobil to pay the final $92 million (57 million) still owed from the court settlement. The major part of the money would be spent to finish cleaning up oiled beaches and attempting to restore the crippled herring population.

</snip>


2 replies, 274 views

Reply to this thread

Back to top Alert abuse

Always highlight: 10 newest replies | Replies posted after I mark a forum
Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 2 replies Author Time Post
Reply 30 Years Ago Today: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (Warning: Graphic images) (Original post)
Dennis Donovan Mar 24 OP
spanone Mar 24 #1
malaise Mar 24 #2

Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Mar 24, 2019, 08:52 AM

1. K&R...

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink


Response to Dennis Donovan (Original post)

Sun Mar 24, 2019, 08:55 AM

2. Damn - time flies

I remember as if it were yesterday
Get thee to the greatest page

Reply to this post

Back to top Alert abuse Link here Permalink

Reply to this thread