Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘Exxon Valdez’

June 6, 2009

20 years later: Finding oil from Exxon Valdez

Time Magazine has a story worth reading on the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The piece chronicles scientists studying the remnants of the 11 million gallon spill in the Prince William Sound:

…Here, on Death Marsh, Mandy Lindberg, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Alaska’s Auke Bay, turns over a shovel of sand and broken rock to reveal a glistening pool of brackish oil. The crude can be chemically typed to the Exxon Valdez, and more oil can be found beneath the beach at Death Marsh and at a number of islands around the Sound. “I wouldn’t have possibly believed the oil would last this long,” says Lindberg. “Studying the spill has been a great learning experience, but if we had known in the years after the spill what we know now, we would have been looking for oil much earlier.”

See more: Still Digging Up Exxon Valdez Oil, 20 Years Later

IBRRC report of spill response: Crude awakening

March 19, 2009

New Podcast: Remembering Exxon Valdez spill

Finally had some time to do a podcast interview with IBRRC’s Executive Director, Jay Holcomb, reflecting on the response to monumental Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Jay pioneered the search and rescue program at the spill. Additionally, he managed the entire rehabilitation program that cared for over 1,600 birds. He spent six straight months in Alaska during the spill.

For the past 23 years, Jay Holcomb has led IBRRC as it has responded to more than 200 domestic and international oil spills.

At least 11 million gallons of crude oil leaked out of the tanker just after midnight on March 24, 1989. The spill affected 1200 miles of coastline through the Prince William Sound and out toward Kodiak Island, Alaska. It ultimately killed more than 300,000 seabirds.

This podcast interview was conducted on March 16, 2009.

Listen to the 24 minute interview here

Also see: IBRRC Exxon Valdez response

March 19, 2009

Personal stories from Exxon Valdez oil spill

A new book capturing personal stories from the Exxon Valdez oil spill is due out this next week. It’s called The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster

We haven’t seen the book yet but it sounds like a winner. It chronicles 62 people as they share their own stories frombeing at the epicenter of North America’s worst oil tanker spill. Twenty years ago this month, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. It spilled 11 million gallons of oil.

The book was written by Sharon Bushell & Stan Jones. Bushell is author of the We Alaskans books. Jones has written three titles in the Alaska-based Nathan Active mystery fiction series.

The publisher is a small Road Tunes Media from Homer, Alaska.

More info online

March 18, 2009

Exxon Valdez oil remains just below the surface

With the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill upon us, a spate of news stories and opinion pieces will surely follow. However, one piece of information worthy of reading is a report that says oil from the spill in some places is “nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill.”

The report makes it clear that just below the surface, oil from the 1989 spill still haunts the Prince William Sound tidal areas.

“In 2001, researchers at the Auke Bay Laboratories, NOAA Fisheries dug over 9,000 pits, at 91 sites, over a 95-day field season. Over half the sites were contaminated with Exxon Valdez oil. Oil was found at different levels of intensity from light sheening; to oil droplets; to heavy oil where the pit would literally fill with oil…In 2003, additional surveys determined that while the majority of subsurface oil was in the midintertidal, a significant amount was also in the lower intertidal. The revised estimate of oil was now more than 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters). Additional surveys outside Prince William Sound have documented lingering oil also on the Kenai Peninsula and the Katmai coast, over 450 miles away.”

Another sobering part of the report continues:

“The amount of Exxon Valdez oil remaining substantially exceeds the sum total of all previous oil pollution on beaches in Prince William Sound (PWS),including oil spilled during the 1964 earthquake. This Exxon Valdez oil is decreasing at a rate of 0-4% per year… At this rate, the remaining oil will take decades and possibly centuries to disappear entirely.”

Nearly 11 million gallons of oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez after it ran aground at Bligh Reef early on Good Friday, March 24, 1989. The ship was captained by Joseph Hazelwood and bound for Long Beach, California with 35 million gallons of crude. It is the largest oil spill in United States history and lives on as one of the largest ecological disasters.

IBRRC personnel spent six months at the spill helping coordinate animal search and collection and treatment of oiled birds. More than 1600 birds were recovered alive and over half were successfully released cleaned back into the wild.

The bird deaths during the spill were astronomical. Between 300,000 to 400,000 seabirds were believed killed by the spill. About 35,000 bird carcasses were recovered. The majority of birds killed were Murres.

The report was submitted by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council that was formed to oversee restoration of the injured ecosystem through the use of the $900 million civil settlement with Exxon.

See also:

IBRRC’s Exxon Valdez response history

Download the full 20th annivesary report, 9 MB pdf

Or the smaller version Word document without photos and charts

Note: Oil pool (top) from Eleanor Island in 2004. Photo: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

March 2, 2009

Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez spill

In the early hours of March 24, 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil supertanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska. It discharges millions of gallons of crude oil. In its wake, some biologists believe it killed 300,000 birds.

If you need any reminder of how powerfully tragic the spill was in Alaska, please watch this powerful trailer for the documentary “Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez

The documentary follows the saga of what happened in the years following the spill. In 1993 both the salmon and the herring runs collapsed. Some species, like the herring, have failed to recover, creating a permanent economic crisis for the Sound’s fishermen. As the bankruptcies began, a wave of social problems followed – alcoholism, high divorce rates and even suicides have swept through the Sound’s small towns.

For twenty years, Riki Ott, author of Not One Drop, and the fishermen of the little town of Cordova, Alaska waged the longest legal battle in U.S. history against the world’s most powerful oil company – ExxonMobil. The Supreme Court reduced the original award last year, but the spill’s legacy lives on.

The video has been shown on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and at various film festivals. We haven’t seen this aired yet in the U.S. (Correct us if we’re wrong)

The full size video trailer can be seen here

IBRRC’s overview on the spill response and court case

June 27, 2008

Court knocks down Exxon oil spill damages

After nearly 20 years of legal wrangling, the Exxon Valdez oil spill court case has finally come to a bitter end. On June 25, 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down punitive damages in a 5-3 ruling that could have far reaching affects for victims harmed during shipping oil spill accidents.

The court reduced the award to $500 million from $2.5 Billion that more than 32,000 fishermen and Alaska Natives had been waiting to collect on oil spill claims from the Exxon Mobil Corp. The plantiffs claimed that the spill caused incredible damage to fishing grounds and harmed their ability to make a living in the area. The 1989 spill caused 11 million gallons of crude oil to harm fishing grounds in the Prince William Sound area.

In late February 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court finally heard oral arguments in the case Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 07-219. Case timeline

A lower court originally awarded $5 Billion in damages to area fishermen who lost revenue after the spill. Another court cut that award in half to $2.5 Billion. The Supreme Court was expected to trim some of the damage award again as Justice Samuel Alito recused himself from the case. Alito owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Exxon stock and stepped aside on the case.

For background on the spill, go to Crude Awakening IBBRC’s story on the spill and its bird saving efforts.

Read more about the recent court descision from the story in the San Francisco Chronicle

Exxon not cutting any checks yet: Alaska Daily News

February 25, 2008

High court hears Exxon Valdez oil spill suit

Nearly 14 years after Exxon was ordered to pay $5 billion dollars because of the damages done to people and their livelyhood during the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the nation’s top court is scheduled to hear the final appeal this week.

The U.S. Supreme Court will listen to arguments this coming Wednesday from the 1994 judgment that awarded residents and fishermen the huge award. The award has been reviewed three times by a district judge and twice by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco. In December 2006, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its final ruling, setting the punitive damages award at $2.5 billion.

In the meantime, 20% of the more than 30,000 fishermen, Native Alaskans, cannery workers and others who triumphed in the Anchorage, Alaska court that day in 1994 are now dead.

Following the 1989 oil spill, more than 11 million gallons spilled. An estimated 300 bald eagles died and another 200,000 common murres perished. Scores of other whales, otters, salmon and invertebrates also died in the aftermath of the spill that hit Prince William Sound and the surrounding areas.

Members of IBRRC’s response team spent nearly six months in Alaska helping care for oiled birds in the spill. See IBRRC report

Read more on the MSNBC website

Also read, plantiff’s law firm discussion of the case

December 3, 2007

Notes from survivor of Exxon Valdez spill

From Riki Ott’s commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The oil spill in San Francisco Bay also hit people in my hometown of Cordova, the native village of Chenega, Port Graham, Kodiak, Chignik – and all other of the 22 Alaskan communities directly affected by the Exxon Valdez spill more than 18 years ago.

The reason Exxon Valdez survivors literally “feel your pain” is that disaster trauma is stored in memory with no time tag other than “present.” No matter what else of significance happens in a person’s life, trauma memory is able to trump it all in an unguarded moment.

As an Exxon Valdez survivor, the intensity of emotion that flooded over me when I learned of the spill in San Francisco Bay was as real as when I first experienced it two decades ago…

Note: Riki Ott, Ph.D., is an marine toxicologist, activist and author of “Sound Truth and Corporate Myth$: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill.”

Read the entire commentary here

Also see the Anchorage Daily News: Legacy of a Spill It contains stories, photos and maps on the spill.