Seventeen years after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound, compelling new evidence suggests that remnants of the worst oil spill in U.S. history extend farther into tidal waters than previously thought, increasing the probability that the oil is causing unanticipated long-term harm to wildlife. The finding appears today on the Web site of the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science & Technology.
The study, by research chemist Jeffrey Short and colleagues at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau, Alaska, is also scheduled to appear in the June 15 print issue of the journal.
"This study shows that it is very plausible that exposure to Exxon Valdez oil is having a material impact on many shore-dwelling animals and is contributing to their slow recovery in some parts of Prince William Sound," Short says. "Sea otters, for instance, have yet to re-inhabit Herring Bay, the most oiled bay we studied, and the population of otters elsewhere around northern Knight Island continues to decline. Unfortunately, because much of this oil is buried in beach sediments and not exposed to weathering and other elements that might degrade it, it could remain hazardous to wildlife for decades."
Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!
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