Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy Oil Disaster Anniversary

Just two days short of the 25th anniversary of the disastrous Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, a barge collided with another ship in the Houston ship channel, resulting in a spill of over 168,000 gallons of a thick, sticky marine fuel called RMG 380, a type of oil that doesn’t evaporate easily.  The channel was immediately closed, leaving at least 80 ships unable to get in or out. 

Two of the six-member barge crew were treated from exposure to fumes containing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas which can be harmful or fatal if inhaled.  Skimming gear and thousands of feet of absorbent oil booms were set up to protect delicate ecosystems that could be affected by the spill.  Officials called it a "significant" spill though it was a small fraction of the 10 million gallons spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and the estimated 210 million gallons of the Deepwater Horizon leak by BP in 2010.

The Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound 25 years ago killed more than 250,000 seabirds in nearby Cook Inlet. The spill spread nearly 500 miles south.  Fishing villages along the coast had their livelihoods destroyed. Oil still persists beneath rocks and pebbles in Alaska where the Exxon Valdez split open, and sea otters have only just recovered after 25 years, and some species such as Pacific herring and the fisheries reliant on them are still not recovering at all, despite Exxon’s overtly optimistic prediction of a quick and full recovery of Prince William Sound.

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