On this day in 1989, hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil were spilled into Prince William Sound in Alaska by the Exxon Valdez oil tanker after it ran aground. Between 11 and 32 million gallons of oil were spilled, creating one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters in history. The cleanup operation was especially difficult due to the Sound’s remote location which was only accessible by air or by boat.
The spill damaged the local habitat, covering 1,300 miles of coastline and 11,000 square miles of ocean. It was the largest ever oil spill in American waters until the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Whilst the cleanup operation was completed, it is believed that the oil will continue to have a negative effect on the area for many years. The Exxon Valdez spill remains one of the most tragic man-made environmental disasters in history, and serves as a reminder of the horrendous effect that spills of this kind can have on the environment. If spills such as these continue to happen, serious and irreversible damage will be inflicted upon this planet. It is a sad truth that more stringent regulations of the oil industry are unlikely to occur, at least in the United States, as the politicians in Washington are too deep in the pockets of big oil lobbyists. Perhaps the first stage, then, is to aim to get big money out of politics. Only then can reforms that desperately need to be passed have a chance.