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The Exxon-Valdez Disaster

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Identify the Exxon-Valdez disaster and describe it in appropriate detail so that the evaluation is conducted in the proper context.

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This was a devastating disaster for the environment and wildlife. Let's take a closer look. I also attached an article, some of which this response is drawn for expansion.


1. Identify the Exxon-Valdez disaster and describe it in appropriate detail so that the evaluation is conducted in the proper context.

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) in Prince William Sound, Alaska, released a minimum of 11 million gallons of Alaskan crude oil into one of the largest and most productive estuaries in North America (http://www.afsc.noaa.gov/Quarterly/jas2001/feature_jas01.htm).

Specifically, the Exxon-Valdez disaster occurred on March 24, 1989. The tanker Exxon Valdez, en route from Valdez, Alaska to Los Angeles, California, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, which was traveling outside normal shipping lanes in an attempt to avoid ice. Within six hours of the grounding, however, the Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 10.9 million gallons of its 53 million gallon cargo of Prudhoe Bay crude oil with eight of the eleven tanks on board were damaged. The oil would eventually impact over 1,100 miles of non-continuous coastline in Alaska, making the Exxon Valdez the largest oil spill to date in U.S. waters (http://www.eoearth.org/article/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill).

Immediate Response to the Disaster

The response to the Exxon Valdez is long term and involved more personnel and equipment over a longer period of time than did any other spill in U.S. history. There were logistical problems in providing fuel, meals, berthing, response equipment, waste management and other resources were one of the largest challenges to response management. At the height of the response, more than 11,000 personnel, 1,400 vessels and 85 aircraft were involved in the cleanup.

The actual shoreline cleanup began in April of 1989 and continued until September of 1989 for the first year of the response. The response effort continued in 1990 and 1991 with cleanup in the summer months, and limited shoreline monitoring in the winter months. Fate and effects monitoring by state and Federal agencies are ongoing.

At the personal level, the world saw images on television and heard reports on the radio of heavily oiled shorelines, dead and dying wildlife, and thousands of workers mobilized to clean beaches. These images reflected what many people felt was a severe environmental insult to a relatively pristine, ecologically important area that was home to many species of wildlife endangered elsewhere. In the weeks and months that followed, the oil spread over a wide area in Prince William Sound and beyond, resulting in an unprecedented response and cleanup?in fact, the largest oil spill cleanup ever mobilized. Many local, state, federal, and private agencies and groups took part in the effort. Even today, scientists continue to study the affected shorelines to understand how an ecosystem like Prince William Sound responds to, and recover from, an incident like the Exxon Valdez oil spill (http://www.eoearth.org/article/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill).

What caused the spill and who was responsible?

There were specific events that led up to the sill, as shown in the following excerpt:


The Exxon Valdez departed from the Trans Alaska Pipeline terminal at 9:12 pm, March 23, 1989. William Murphy, an expert ship's pilot hired to maneuver the 986-foot vessel through the Valdez Narrows, was in control of the wheelhouse. At his side was the captain of the vessel, Joe Hazelwood. Helmsman Harry Claar was steering. After passing through Valdez Narrows, pilot Murphy left the vessel and Captain Hazelwood took over the wheelhouse. The Exxon Valdez encountered icebergs in the shipping lanes and Captain Hazelwood ordered Claar to take the Exxon Valdez out of the shipping lanes to go around the ice. He then handed over control of the wheelhouse to Third Mate Gregory Cousins with precise instructions to turn back into the shipping lanes when the tanker reached a certain point. At that time, Claar was replaced by Helmsman Robert Kagan. For reasons that remain unclear, Cousins and Kagan failed to make the turn back into the shipping lanes and the ship ran aground on Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m., March 24, 1989. Captain Hazelwood was in his quarters at the time.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the accident and determined five probable causes of the grounding:

(1) The third mate failed to properly maneuver the vessel, possibly due to fatigue and excessive workload;
(2) The master failed to provide a proper navigation watch, possibly due to impairment from alcohol;
(3) Exxon Shipping Company failed to supervise the master and provide a rested and sufficient crew for the Exxon Valdez;
(4) The U.S. Coast Guard failed to provide an effective vessel traffic system; and
(5) effective pilot and escort services were lacking (excerpted from http://www.eoearth.org/article/Exxon_Valdez_oil_spill).

How did ExxonMobil Respond?

ExxonMobil acknowledged that the Exxon Valdez oil spill was a tragic accident that the company deeply regrets. Exxon notes that company took immediate responsibility for the spill, cleaned it up, and voluntarily compensated those who claimed direct damages. ExxonMobil paid $300 million immediately and voluntarily to more than 11,000 Alaskans and businesses affected by the Valdez spill. In addition, the company paid $2.2 billion on the cleanup of Prince William Sound, staying with the cleanup from 1989 to 1992, when the State of Alaska and the U.S. Coast Guard declared the cleanup complete. And, as noted above, ExxonMobil also has paid $1 billion in settlements with the state and federal governments. That money is being used for environmental studies and conservation programs for Prince William Sound.

ExxonMobil hired its own scientists to study the impacts of the ...

Solution Summary

Identifies and describes the Exxon-Valdez disaster in some detail and proper context. Supplemented with extra information on this disaster.

See Also This Related BrainMass Solution

What disaster plans were in place prior to the disaster, Valdez?

What disaster plans were in place prior to the disaster, Valdez; information on ecosystem restoration, research, and monitoring following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

What disaster plans were in place prior to the disaster, if any? If there were plans in place, how did the plans impact the disaster? If there were no plans in place, how would a plan have helped the outcome of the disaster? Who's Plans where they and did they have an impact on the disaster.

Please include references.

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