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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Valdez Oil Spill: Slimy Souvenirs for Sale

Air Date: Week of February 13, 1998

An update on an old story that just won't go away. It seems that the cleanup from the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is not over yet. The state of Alaska still owns 2,000 samples of oil taken by scientists as evidence in various lawsuits. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has a plan to dispose of the samples: by selling them as souvenirs. Commentator Nancy Lord is not impressed. Lord is author of "Fishcamp: Life on the Alaskan Shore" and she comes to us from member station K-B-B-I in Homer. Alaska.

Transcript

CURWOOD: And finally, this week, an update on an old story that just won't go away. It seems that the clean-up from the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill is not over yet. The State of Alaska still owns 2,000 samples of oil taken by scientists as evidence in various lawsuits. And the State Department of Environmental Conservation has a plan to dispose of the samples: sell them as souvenirs. Commentator Nancy Lord is not impressed.

LORD: Here's the deal. Each sample, ranging from 40 milliliters to 1 liter, and containing some mix of crude oil, sea water, rock, and other debris, is in its original container and will be accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. For $5 plus a $5 shipping fee, you can have your very own piece of filthy legal evidence collected at the site of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound.

The problem I have with this fundraising scheme is simple. Say you order your authentic oil spill sample. Then what? You display it on your living room mantle or coffee table? You shake it up and look at the way oil and water don't mix? After a while, after you've suitably impressed your friends and neighbors, the bottle ends up on a back shelf next to your pet rock, then down in the basement, then where? If it wasn't bad enough that the Exxon Valdez dumped 11 million gallons of crude into pristine waters, eventually spreading over 10,000 square miles of ocean and fouling more than 1,200 miles of shoreline, now we have a chance to extend its pollution even further. After its novelty has warn off, my guess is that most samples will get thrown into the trash to go to neighborhood landfills, or poured down the drain and end up in another body of water. With enough irresponsibility, we can extend that one horrendous oil spill all the way around the world.

Let's not forget the Exxon Valdez oil spill. But let's memorialize it another way. Let's insist that oil wastes be disposed of properly, and that spill prevention measures be adopted and enforced everywhere.

I'd like to applaud the creativity of employees at Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation. But their plan for getting rid of 2,000 samples of crude oil and oily debris is a bit too creative for me.

CURWOOD: Commentator Nancy Lord is author of Fishcamp: Life on the Alaskan Shore. She comes to us from member station KBBI in Homer, Alaska.

 

 

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