Summary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, 1989
The Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster occurred in the Prince William bay in Alaska, on March 24, 1989. It is considered to be one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur in history. An oil tanker ran aground on a reef off the Alaskan coast causing the release of gallons of crude oil into the sea! This significant oil spill at Valdez is ranked well down on the list of the world’s largest oil spills in terms of volume released. However, Prince William Sound’s remote location (accessible only by helicopter and boat) made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The region was a habitat for salmon, sea otters, seals and seabirds. The vessel split open and released 10.8 million U.S. gallons (about 40 million liters) of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into the sea, and the oil eventually covered 1,300 square miles (3,400 km2) of ocean. This long-feared disaster wasn’t created due to physical dangers and meteorological conditions but due to human negligence and incompetence. The captain of the supertanker was found to be drunk and no senior officer was on the bridge at the time (from sources, this captain had previously be banned from drink driving).
The Alaska pipeline company, which was supposed to react within five hours to such a disaster, didn’t do so! And following the wrong advice, continued to do nothing! High winds were affecting attempts to suck the slick from the sea’s surface and residents reported poor air quality as emergency crews tried to burn off the top layer of oil. But apparently no crude oil actually made it into the Port of Valdez, as Bligh Reef is about 25 miles south of the Port. However, winds and tides moved the floating crude oil further south into the Sound and onto beaches. Oil covered over 1200 miles of rocky beaches — the task of cleaning it up was a big one.
The Exxon-Valdez oil-spill disaster resonated with important issues such as: the economic nature of legal systems, the safety and health of individuals as opposed to the power of corporations, and the debate as to whether human cleanup efforts or the natural processing of toxins by the earth provided a better remedy for environmental disasters. It is possible that the exposed vulnerabilities of ...
– The vessel split open and released 10.8 million U.S. gallons (about 40 million liters) of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into the sea, and the oil eventually covered 1,300 square miles (3,400 km2) of ocean.
– Oil covered over 1200 miles of rocky beaches — the task of cleaning it up was a big one.
-The effects were felt in remote inlets, and the ecosystem had to fully recover
-The spillage severely affected the wildlife and marine ecosystems: both long and short term effects, thousands of animals died immediately and around 250,000 seabirds, nearly 3,000 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales died as a result of the spill.
-IT destroyed the microbiological populations on the shoreline, many of these organisms (like plankton) are the base of the coastal marine food chain and some are capable of biodegrading the oil.
-Oil remains in the sandy soil of the contaminated shoreline, which declines very slowly.
-It also severely affected many fisherman with the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs. The effects of the spill are enormous and continue to be felt today.
-Reductions in population have been seen in various ocean animals (salmon, sea birds, seals, whales, otters, ..) and restrictions of fishing have been put in place! Moreover severe controls have been put in place because of the ingestion of oil residues.
-Coastline covered in oil and oil slick prevented most sun light getting through the water.
-Almost 20 years after the spill, a team of scientists at the University of North California found that the effects are lasting far longer than expected. The team estimates some shoreline Arctic habitats may take up to 30 years to recover. Exxon denies any concerns over this.
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-Actual effects caused by this spill are still uncertain today. Concerns over long-term ecological impacts, are still unknown However, a study from scientists from the NOAA concluded that this contamination can produce chronic low-level exposure, discourage subsistence where the contamination is heavy, and decrease the “wilderness character” of the area.
-Land animals: caribous were poisoned by eating contaminated seaweed and bear’s diets were reduced due to a number of salmon.
Social and Economic effects
-During the summer of 1989 over 10,000 workers were employed by Exxon and its management company. Each worker had to be supplied with equipment, transportation, food, lodging, logistical support, and supervision.
-Valdez, a city of 3,500 people, grew to three times its normal size almost overnight. Bed & Breakfasts sprang up all over the city. Food and clothing stores rolled into town and prices soared.
-Temporary buildings were erected for Exxon’s office space, and rent everywhere went sky-high.
-Money flowed through the town in unprecedented amounts. On average it cost Exxon $1,000 each day to support one worker on a beach cleanup crew. That figure multiplied by 10,000 makes for an astounding sum of money.
-Jobs were plentiful. Exxon employed many people in the Prince William Sound area to transport supplies to the villages in the Sound, and to support the cleanup crews throughout the oiled areas.
-Communal fund that’s pays every person in the state, an annual sum of money sometimes equivalent to over 1000 dollars per person.
-People made their business out of it. For example the sale of equipment to the oil giant Exxon (boots, goats, gloves..) also many firms came over such a we saw in the film like burger king. People also made ironic t-shirt and clothing items (caps and t-shirt with the slogan :’’ the captain made my fortune ‘’)
– Cleanup crews sprayed rock faces with steam hoses and manually wiped smaller rocks clean. By midsummer, new techniques and technologies were employed.
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-Alaskan singers made songs about this disaster, local people who had land sold it or rented it for a great share of money, shipping service, taxi, cars were highly in demand and therefore rented for a lot of money.
-Shoreline treatment created a large amount of employment because a large number of people were needed to spray seawater to flush oil. Beach washing, manual cleanup, raking and tilling the beaches, oily debris pickup, enhanced bioremediation and spot washing were used to clean up the oil.
– In some locations, oil was thick enough to be picked up with shovels and buckets. In addition, mechanical methods were used on a few sites, including the use of bulldozers to relocate or remove the contaminated beach surfaces. Mechanical rock washing machines, which were manufactured for the spill, were not used to clean contaminated rocks and return them to the beach.
-The actual cleanup process was time consuming and ineffective in many ways. Workers would wipe down a beach, the tide would change, and oil-laden water would cover the rocks with a new coating of oil.
-Tourism Losses. The spill caused both negative and positive effects. The major negative effets were:
1. Decreased in the number of residents and non-residents
2. Severe labor shortage in the tourists industry throughout the state due to traditional service industry workers seeking high-paying spill clean-up jobs.
3. Fifty-nine percent of businesses in the most affected areas reported spill-related cancellations
-Microorganisms that “ate” crude oil were sprayed onto some of the beaches, and new materials were used in wiping operations. The work was slow, but every little bit helped.
-in 1990, Exxon returned to Prince William Sound with a much smaller work force for continued cleaning. Long-term damages are still being assessed on fish, marine and land wildlife, and recreation.
-Today, years after the Oil Spill cleanup, efforts on some heavily oiled beaches have been reinstated, and with the help of Mother Nature, the Sound will recover more each year. Prince William Sound today flourishes with marine life, waterfowl, bottom fish, and salmon runs. Visit Valdez and see gorgeous Prince William Sound for yourself!
Whats an oil spill ? Oil spills happen when people make mistakes or are careless and cause an oil tanker to leak oil into the ocean. There are a few more ways an oil spill can occur. Equipment breaking down may cause an oil spill. If the equipment breaks down, the tanker may get stuck on shallow land. When they start to drive the tanker again, they can put a hole in the tanker causing it to leak ...
-Feeling of invasion was created through a number of the Alaskan Inuit population. We also were this through the speech of the mayor of Valdez. This feeling was notably due because these people choose to live in this small remote town to live in harmony with nature and leave in peace and quiet, and brutally saw their town invaded by strangers who were there for work.
-Local population could’ not afford to live in Valdez anymore (people just couldn’t compete with the prices Exxon were offering).
-Recreational sport fishing losses. This loss was estimated based on the impacts of the spill on sport fishing activity. You must consider the impact on the number of anglers, the number of sport fishing trips, the area fished, the species fished for, and the length of these trips. For 1989 the loss was estimated to be between 0 and 580 million dollars, for 1990 the range was 3.6 million to 50.5 million dollars.
Exxon captain has admitted drinking before boarding the tanker but was acquitted of operating a ship while under the influence of alcoholic substance. The Exxon Valdez vessel was repaired and renamed the Sea River Mediterranean and is working in the Atlantic although it is banned from returning to Alaska.
Even after investing 600 million dollars the impact of the oil spillage is still felt by the population in their everyday living.