"There was a 3-foot wave of oil boiling out from under the ship, recalls Lawn, who was then a
Lawn was one of the first responders to reach the 986-footlong
Lawn spent a long day on board assessing the damage as oil gushed out. There would be no quick and coordinated spill response to slow the spread. Some 11 million gallons of crude would leak out of the
Eventually, the oil would foul parts of 1,300 miles of coastline, killing marine life ranging from microscopic planktons to orcas in an accident that would change how the maritime oil-transportation industry does business in
Today, due to changes to
The volume of oil that tankers carry through
The threat of massive spills does not only come from tankers. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion that killed 11 workers led to an oil spill of 168 million gallons -- dwarfing the amount released by the
"If there is a single lesson we have learned, it's that we have to do everything possible to prevent all sorts of scenarios that could lead to a catastrophic spill," said
Steiner networked with
Meanwhile, Lawn sounded the alarm within the ranks of the state
"The managers were told that, but they didn't want to hear it,' said Lawn, who is now retired and divides his time between
When the accident happened, there was far too little response equipment, and some of it was buried in snow.
For three days, relatively calm weather prevailed. The oil lay thick around the vessel, offering a crucial window of time for action. Then came a storm that scattered the oil, splattering coastlines to the west and south. For four years, crews embarked on a
Up to 10,000 workers were employed in the cleanup, and 1,000 boats. One line of an attack was using hot water on the beaches, but that was stopped when it was found to cook marine life, do more harm than good, according to research cited by the
Amid the oil slicks in the water, killer whales surfaced to breathe. Among a resident pod of 36 whales in the area, 14 had disappeared by 1990, according to the
Over the long term, a transient whale pod that also frequented
That pod appears doomed. "I give them maybe a two percent chance (of survival). It is so sad," Matkin said.
Changes made, concerns linger
Three decades after the spill, Alyeska and the oil companies -- under pressure from the state of
If oil should escape a tanker, Alyeska has more than 40 miles of boom, compared with five in 1989.
Alyeska has 140 skimmers, compared with 13 back then, and the newer models operate much more efficiently, capturing less water.
The capacity to store cleaned up oil with barges or other floating equipment is more than 50 times greater than at the time of the spill.
"The technology has changed immensely," said
The biggest tanker vessels must have redundant operating systems, as well as tugboat escorts once they come in from the ocean to the trans-boundary waters of the
The bill would also authorize research toward eventually providing the same protection for the
Scientists with the
Conditions put on the TransMountain pipeline expansion project by
"That is sort of disappointing to me; I would rather, regardless of whether approved or not, that they would make the investment to have the highest level of response."
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