More Oil Spills Mark 25th Anniversary of Exxon Valdes Disaster

B. McPherson
Just another day in the oil industry
People on the Gulf Coast of Texas are witnessing a wildlife catastrophe in the making as sticky, heavy black oil is moving onto shore from a holed barge. Two ships collided in the Galveston Ship Canal with the result that about 168 000 US gallons of the deadly stuff have leaked into the water.

This comes as a particularly bad time for the millions of shore birds returning to their summer grounds as winter lifts in the North. The floating booms that have been deployed to corral the floating oil are ineffective as wind and waves slosh the contaminated water over them. The danger to wildlife – birds, fish, sedges, sea weed, jellyfish – is direct and indirect. If complete cleanup is not done, then the toxic petroleum becomes part of the food chain gradually poisoning those that eat it and those that eat them.

But look on the bright side. The barge contained over 900 000 gallons of the tarry oil. The six crew members of the barge were taken to hospital to treat them for fume inhalation.

Just last week a ship carrying a cargo of rice collided with another petroleum carrier, but in this case only rice was dumped into the water. The Galveston Ship Canal is a superhighway of commerce. Currently cruise ships are marooned at dock, fishing is closed and pleasure boats are being tarred.  
The Gulf of Mexico was slammed with a massive oil leak from the Macondo drill site April 20 2010. The BP litigation from that incident is still wending its way through the legal system. The damage done to the Gulf’s ecology is unkown.

Today also marks the sad anniversary of the Exxon Valdes oil disaster which saw Prince William Sound devastated by Alaska oil. March 24, 1989 saw 11 million gallons spilled from the tanker. Clean up efforts were extensive but to this day, tarry blobs still pollute the shoreline. The people of the area have not recovered, the whales have not recovered and the herring runs have not recovered. Twenty-five years later, litigation has not been settled.

Oil spills during exploration, drilling and transport are part of the business. It is one of the reasons why the environmental groups are fighting so hard to keep petroleum exploitation out of the Arctic regions.
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