Is the Exxon Valdez Spill Site Clean?
2009 will mark the 20th Anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which many scientists say is the most 'notorious human-caused environmental disaster in history'.
From a recent survey at Prince William Sound in Alaska, there is actually very liitle oil left and the parts that remain are not in a place that is harmful to humans, plants, or animals.
Both scientists that work for Greenpeace and for Exxon are still debating whether to declare this area 'clean' or not. The effects over a long term are still not known, and it not known whether the oil residue that is still left behind is interferring with the ecosystem.
Paul Boehm of Exponent International, a scientific consultancy that specialises in chemical contamination, led the survey together with colleagues from two other private companies and two US research universities. The study received funding from the Exxon Mobil Corporation.
Boehm and colleagues collected over 700 samples from 25 sites throughout the sound that were known to have been heavily contaminated by the 1989 spill. Two of the sites are now actively foraged by sea otters, they say.
"We found that the remnants from the spill today are found in small patches at very few beaches," says Boehm. The survey showed that the oil which does remain is deep in cracks between boulders and pebbles, and much of it is degraded.
Meanwhile, Exxon has been forced to pay $6.1 million in violation of a Clean-Act Agreement against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The EPA said that Exxon had not monitored sulfur content in some fuel burned in refinery furnaces, which breaches a 2005 settlement.
Exxon said in a statement that the company discovered some fuel gas streams that had not been addressed in the settlement while conducting an environmental self audit in November 2006 at its Baytown, Texas, refinery.
Exxon said it reported these findings to the EPA, and that all streams now meet EPA standards.
Under the original agreement, Exxon was already required to pay a $7.7 million civil penalty, $6.7 million in environmental projects in areas surrounding the company's refineries and to install pollution controls at six U.S. refineries.
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