During the early stages of the Exxon Valdez Spill, fire-resistant boom was placed on tow line and two ships were attached to the ends of boom; with slow movement of the ships, boom collected the oil which was then ignited. But this method was not useful due to the conditions of weather. Dispersants were also sprayed; with the help of booms and skimmers, mechanical cleanup was done. For the delicate areas, special cleanup techniques were approved. After more than two decades, when the Gulf of Mexico encountered an oil spill, the weapons available remain the same (Houston Chronicle, 2013). Although the two really look quite similar, but the Exxon Valdez Spill was very different from the BP’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
The major difference between the two oil spills was the geographic difference which also became the cause for the difference in cleanups. Exxon spill occurred in a remote area of Alaska where one of the main problems was the frigid temperatures especially during March (Dickinson, 2010). Prince William Sound is a rocky coastline and the location acts as a natural containment device; so the biggest challenge was the deployment of the necessary cleanup equipment. In contrast to this, the Gulf coastline is marshy or somewhat rocky and it is already flimsy. The area is densely populated and access is very easy as compared to the Prince William Sound. Nothing near this area can be considered as a natural containment device.
Alaskan spill was very close to the coastline which hindered the use of dispersants; even burning was not a feasible option because mechanical cleanup was possible; lastly, the option of skimmers was actually not present widely in 1989 in the area of Prince William Sound. So, despite being present in limited area that spill really caused damage to 1300 miles of coastline (Bearden, 2010). In the Gulf of Mexico, the workers had all the options with them. The ecosystem of Gulf is highly dynamic and it has a soft coast which I also why these marsh, sandy beaches having densely populated shoreline would sustain the longest lasting damage. It is still spreading and has not only affected the marshlands and wildlife management areas, but it also has affected the seafood fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Although studies have found that the gravel beaches of Alaska have also sustained the damage after more than two decades (Unknown, 2009), but it is impossible to even identify the amount of damage done to the marsh and sandy beaches oil spill.
Bearden, T. (2010). The Gulf Coast Oil Spill: How Does It Compare to Exxon Valdez?. PBS NEWSHOUR, [online] 4th May. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2010/05/could-the-gulf-coast-oil-spill-eclipse-exxon-valdez.html [Accessed: 14 Sep 2013].
Dickinson, T. (2010). The Spill, the Scandal and the President. Rolling Stone Politcs, [online] 8th June. Retrieved from: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-spill-the-scandal-and-the-president-20100608 [Accessed: 14 Sep 2013].
Houston Chronicle (2013). Decades after Exxon Valdez, cleanup technology still same. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.chron.com/business/energy/article/Decades-after-Exxon-Valdez-cleanup-technology-1704738.php [Accessed: 14 Sep 2013].
Unknown. (2009). Oil plagues Sound 20 years after Exxon Valdez. NBC NEWS.COM, [online] 24th March. Retrieved from: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29838444/ns/us_news-environment/page/2/#.UjPNdT-kNuY [Accessed: 14 Sep 2013].