Workers clean oil offshore after spill on Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Credit: Reuters/Bettmann Newsphotos

Who is to blame for the devastating and still expanding impact of the 10.9 million gal oil spill let loose two months ago in Alaska’s pristine Prince William Sound?

Fingers point obviously to Exxon, owner of the tanker Exxon Valdez that hit Bligh Reef at four minutes after midnight on Good Friday, March 24, and started the disaster. However, there is more than enough blame to go around for Exxon, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., and federal and state governments, says a report just sent to President Bush by William K. Reilly, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Samuel K. Skinner, Secretary of Transportation.

“Government and industry plans, individually and collectively, proved to be wholly insufficient to control an oil spill of the magnitude of the Exxon Valdez incident,” the report finds. “Initial industry efforts to get equipment on scene were unreasonably slow, and once deployed the equipment could not cope with the spill. Moreover, the various contingency plans did not refer to each other or establish a workable response command hierarchy. This resulted in confusion and delayed the cleanup.”

-Richard Seltzer

Alaska Oil Spill: Cleanup efforts found slow, confused

Chemical & Engineering News, May 29, 1989

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