Lessons from past and present oil spills

Publication - June 26, 2010
1989 Exxon Valdez

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker hit Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef in Alaska and spilled an estimated 40.9 million litres of crude oil at minimum. Fifteen years later, a team of experts visited the site of the Exxon Valdez spill at Rua Cove on Knight Island, Alaska, and photographed oil pollution still in evidence. Until the BP Deepwater Horizon, the Exxon Valdez oil spill was the largest oil spill in U.S. waters.

2010 BP Deepwater Horizon

The BP Deepwater Horizon oilrig that exploded was considered a “marvel of modern technology.” Enbridge, which proposes to build twin pipelines to B.C.’s coast, promises “all vessels entering Kitimat Marine Terminal will be modern.”(1)

The BP oilrig Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank on April 20, 2010. Since that day, at least 795,000, and as much as 15,900,000, litres of crude oil spew into the Gulf of Mexico every day(2).

Oil, tar balls and dead oil-soaked wildlife are washing up on the shores and in the marshes of Florida and Louisiana(3). The Louisiana commercial fishing, sport fishing and tourism industries are all suffering devastating impacts as a result of the oil spill and closure to fishing grounds(4). With almost four million litres of chemical dispersants being pumped into the deep sea to keep the oil from floating to the surface, the impact on fish, undersea life and water quality is unknown(5). BP’s efforts to stop the oil from spilling have failed.

“The oil industry has had over 40 years — since the 1967 Torrey Canyon tanker spill in England — to make good on its promise to clean up future oil spills. This latest spill highlights the harsh truth that the industry has failed to live up to its promise.” — Dr. Riki Ott, whose community was in the Exxon Valdez’s oil spill path and has travelled to the Gulf of Mexico to bear witness to the BP disaster.

1. http://www.enbridge.com/investor/pdf/northern-gateway-project.pdf
2. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/05/how-much-oil-has-spilled-in-the-gulf-of-mexico.html
3. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/04/1663486/tar-balls-seen-on-pensacola-beach.html
4. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/images/closuremap_060710.jpg
5. http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/06/07/1668579/with-1-million-gallons-of-dispersants.html