Exxon irresponsibility has long-term effects

By Dave Kirkpatrick

The devastating figures from this nation’s worst oil spill in history are beginning to roll in, and for some, the worst nightmare is now a reality.

Now that some 10 million gallons of oil have spilled into the once pristine coastal wilderness of Alaska, producing a 1,000 square-mile slick, the concern over environmental contamination lurks before us in a much larger shape and form.

Thousands of sea-going creatures—gulls, loons, puffins, otters, sea lions and fish—have washed up on shore dead or dying. Almost all were victims of inflictions caused by swimming through miles of what experts are calling “mousse,” a foamy mixture of sea water and oil.

The available figures are staggering. However, even more staggering is the damage we cannot see. As one writer put it, “There is no one keeping a tally on the ocean floor.”

When an accident such as this occurs, the immediate signs of death are not hard to see. What is difficult to measure is the long-term effect.

No one knows what will happen to valuable spawning grounds for fish like the salmon. No one knows what will happen to fishing grounds for birds of prey and meat-eating mammals who once relied on the seemingly endless bounty of food. Unfortunately, the plight of those creatures which live in the sea is much clearer.

For those of you who feel little concern or sorrow toward the environmental “rape” that has occurred, consider the small town of Cardova, Alaska.

The people of Cardova make their living farming the harvest of the sea. Or at least they once made their living that way. Now, even the very existence of the town is in question.

Without the resource they have come to rely upon, the people of Cardova might be doomed. Without clean waters and adequate supplies of fish, many family traditions of fishing, passed on from generation to generation, will end on a very pitiful note.

I have more concern for the rejuvenation of the environment than I do for the people. The people, with the “help” of technology, can rebuild. However, the fragility and balance of the affected areas in Alaska have been severely damaged and will probably take years to restore.

I am happy—no, ecstatic—that the S.O.B. who was supposed to be piloting the tanker has been fired. I am pleased that he is facing criminal charges from the State of Alaska. I am hoping that he is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I hope the guy is sent up the river, no pun intended, for a very lenghty prison sentence.

I am disgusted over the fact that one of the leading petroleum producing companies in the world is careless, ill-equipped and unprepared.

The city of Valdez, Alaska, is home to Exxon’s major port. There, one would assume one would be able to find the necessary hardware to get the job of cleaning up such messes done quickly and effectively. Such is not the case. The fleet of Exxon’s “skimmers,” used to suck the oil off the surface of the water after a spill, is inadequately sized. For that reason, ships from Norwegian and Soviet ports, located far from the spill, needed to be called in.

What really makes my skin crawl is the stupidity of Exxon management in letting someone with a chronicled drinking problem pilot an enormous tanker through an area with numerous navigational hazards.

This guy, who has been arrested and charged with driving his car under the influence of alcohol, should never have been allowed to keep his job in the first place.

e and Exxon are equally responsible for the accident. He abdicated his post to some third mate who had no business piloting that ship, and Exxon abdicated social responsibility by keeping him employed.

Maybe I can do Exxon a favor, and run a want ad for them.

If anyone out there has a few DUIs and can’t seem to find work elsewhere, give Exxon a call. I hear they need another irresponsible drunk to pilot one of their tankers.