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Earth Science

Oil From the Exxon Valdez Spill Still Lingers On Alaska Beaches 261

An anonymous reader writes "It's been 25 years since the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil in Prince William Sound, and you can still find oil sticking to rocks. Worse yet, scientists say the oil could be around for decades yet to come. From the article: 'There are two main reasons why there's still oil on some of the beaches of the Kenai Fjords and Katmai National Parks and Preserves in the Gulf of Alaska, explains Gail Irvine, a marine ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead researcher on the study. When the oil first spilled from the tanker, it mixed with the seawater and formed an emulsion that turned it into a goopy compound, she says. "When oil forms into the foam, the outside is weathering, but the inside isn't," Irvine explains. It's like mayonnaise left out on the counter. The surface will crust over, but the inside of the clump still looks like mayonnaise, she explains.'"
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Oil From the Exxon Valdez Spill Still Lingers On Alaska Beaches

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  • Re:why the surprise? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2014 @01:03AM (#46385643)
    There are bacteria that eat oil, but they work very very slowly. This should not be surprising given the quantity of oil just sitting there in the ground, undigested.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 03, 2014 @01:57AM (#46385809)

    Pipelines leak constantly. Not in huge spills, but they do leak constantly and often in considerable amounts before being noticed.

    I used to write software to help various agencies track leaks in pipelines.

  • Overblown Concerns (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tenebrousedge ( 1226584 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (egdesuorbenet)> on Monday March 03, 2014 @01:45PM (#46388501)

    I submit I am the highest authority on this specific subject here on slashdot. I grew up in Valdez, AK, the closest town to the spill. I was there when it happened. There is some documentary footage somewhere of myself and my siblings at one of these oil-soaked beaches. I've known friends to go out and do these beach surveys looking for oil, and I've fished and kayaked throughout Prince William Sound.

    Firstly I have to say that, unless one goes specifically looking for it, this oil is invisible. The environment has entirely recovered, the salmon run is healthy, and there are as many sea birds, sea otters, and sea lions as there ever have been.

    Secondly, the other posters make a very good points about the relative safety of oil tankers vs oil pipelines. I will additionally say that tankers are better protected from deliberate damage than pipelines. I don't know where you're getting your costs from, but I make the average oil tanker to be in the $100M range, and the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System cost $8B.

    I don't know if you know about it, but there is also a proposed natural gas pipeline which was intended to run through Canada to the States. Extrapolating from the cost per mile of TAPS, an oil pipeline would probably be in the range of $15B. Setting aside whether it is actually better for the environment, it is a lot easier to suggest that environmental concerns trump economic ones when it's not your $15B.

    Nuclear power is probably a good option for Alaska, whereas solar is pretty much off the table. Hopefully one day someone will take advantage of the tidal energy in the Cook Inlet as well, one lobe of that (Turnagain Arm) having the third-highest tides in the world. There are one or two problems though with putting nuclear reactors in geologically active places though, and the NRC isn't exactly putting applications through quickly at the moment.

    Personally though, from having witnessed one of the larger oil spills in history, I don't really find them all that concerning.

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