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Oil Spills May Be Forever

20 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, as increased offshore oil drilling is being contemplated off Alaska, California, and much of the East and Gulf Coasts, an article in Science News and the 2009 Status Report that it references are sobering reminders of how permanent the ecological damage of an oil spill may be. From the article:

While surface oiling from the roughly 11-million-gallon spill of crude has disappeared, oil now turns up with some regularity just under the surface of tidal sediments in areas that initially had been heavily hit. Or so notes a 2009 Status Report that was issued this month by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. This joint state-and-federal body was established to oversee the use of a $900 million civil settlement (collected from Exxon Co. USA, now ExxonMobil) to restore the area’s oil-hammered ecosystems.

The natural removal of this residual oil has slowed to a glacial pace, it says — "0 to 4 percent per year, with only a 5 percent chance that the rate is as high as 4 percent."

Especially troubling, it adds: In some places this oil “is nearly as toxic as it was the first few weeks after the spill.”

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