Thursday, May 6, 2010

What was learned from the EXXON VALDEZ Oil Spill? Why must we learn it again?

Black Wave - The legacy of the Exxon Valdez (Teaser EN) from Macumba on Vimeo.
"The day dawned like any other, barely. Within minutes (at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989 to be precise), the way we think of oil, how we manage commercial shipping, and how the National Park Service manages resources changed forever... The Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound. Carrying 1,264,155 barrels of oil bound for Washington...

EXXON VALDEZ Oil Spill Facts & Figures
 257,000 barrels……of oil were spilled (equivalent to 11 million gallons or 125 olympic-sized swimming pools).
 17,000 barrels……of oil were recovered (750,000 gallons).
 1,300 miles……of shoreline were impacted.
 460 miles……the distance the spill stretched from Bligh Reef to the village of Chignik on the Alaskan Peninsula.
 512,000 feet (almost 100 miles)…of containment boom used for cleanup.
 11,000 people…employed by Exxon to assist with cleanup efforts.
 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs……the ‘best’ estimate of how many animals died outright from the spill.

Some of the lessons learned include:
 Response to a major event or incident is complex, requires careful yet clearly identified management, exemplary leadership, and specialized skills.
 The lingering effects of such an event can be difficult to identify but are vitally important to understand.
 Prevention is inordinately cheaper than cleanup.
 Distance doesn't necessarily mean you're safe (after nearly 2 months, Katmai National Park was struggling with fresh oil).
 We didn’t know much about our resources and still today have a lot to learn—a realization which helped initiate natural resource Inventory &Monitoring, coastal mapping, and archeological survey efforts.
 We can and must work well with others—local communities, business, and state & federal government agencies...

Following the initial response came cleanup. With summer coming we divided the park staff into those who worked on the spill and those who ran the park. Everyone rose to the challenge – it was inspiring and humbling and a tremendous privilege to work alongside the small park staff and with all those who came to help us. Summer came and left and we were still engaged in spill activities on a daily basis...

For the next two summers there was cleanup and surveys. Surveys charting the fate and persistence of the oil that hit the shores of the park continue to this day, 20 years later. And 20 years later, on a hot day, you can still see the rainbow sheen in the water and smell the oil as it seeps from park beaches. I suspect some of it will always be there...

The rest of the story is here for your reading pleasure...

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