Exxon Oil Spill cleanup
Twenty years have passed since the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, less than two hours from the Valdez oil terminal, with a full load of crude oil March 24, 1989. The Exxon Valdez spilled nearly 11 million gallons of Alaskan crude oil into the sound. The resulting oil slick spread west across Prince William Sound and into the Gulf of Alaska. Oil patches from the spill were eventually sighted in the Shelikof Straits more than 300 miles from Bligh Reef. The Alaska District became an operational element of Joint Task Force-Alaska, which was mobilized to assist in the spill’s cleanup. The task force formed a crisis management team and opened the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) April 6. Oil collected by small skimmers and fishing boats was contained in circles of boom material nicknamed “doughnuts.” Oil and contaminated solids from the doughnuts were then pumped aboard two Portland District dredges— the Essayons and Yaquina— brought up in mid-April where the oil was stored in the dredges until it could be unloaded into barges. Neither dredge was equipped to work with oil, so drag heads were modified by reversing them to pull in oil from the surface of the water instead of using them in the traditional way of vacuuming up from a channel bottom. The dredges recovered nearly 380,000 gallons of oil, and the Essayons also stored and transported 180 cubic yards of contaminated solids collected from Shelikof Straits shoreline. The EOC operated for 65 days, most of the time staffed 24 hours per day, from April 6 to June 9, 1989.

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