Exxon Cleanup OKd but Wider Effort Sought
The Coast Guard commandant Monday approved Exxon’s plan to scrub at least 305 miles of shoreline fouled by America’s worst oil spill, but he demanded that the company also target oil-tainted beaches outside Prince William Sound.
Adm. Paul Yost also expressed reservations that Exxon’s draft plan was too optimistic. The plan, released Monday, calls for Exxon to hire 4,000 people to clean most of the soiled shoreline by the third week in August.
The cleanup can be be completed by August if a hot-water cleaning method that can damage beach life is used aggressively, or by mid-September if environmentally safer methods play a larger role, the plan says.
Those projections were disputed by a state environmentalist, who said after reviewing the plan that only about 150 miles could be cleaned before winter.
Letter to Exxon Official
Yost, under orders from President Bush to hasten the cleanup, approved the draft plan in a letter to Exxon’s general manager in Valdez, Otto Harrison. But he immediately demanded that Exxon broaden the plan by May 1 to include oil-tainted beaches outside the sound, which state officials say may number in the hundreds.
The top state environmental official also called for the plan to be broadened to include areas outside the sound.
Harrison said Exxon’s first fully equipped landing barge would be deployed Saturday, a prediction Yost said he found encouraging.
The plan estimates that by June 1 the company will have 2,500 Alaskans working on the shoreline, with 1,500 other people in support roles. It says 11 barges, 28 landing vessels, 150 utility ships, and six wash-vacuum ships will be used.
But Steve Haavig of the Environmental Conservation Department estimated after reviewing the plan that crews would be able to scrape and spray greasy black sludge from only about one mile of beach per day.
At most, there are 150 days from the time workers and gear are mobilized, two or three weeks from now, until winter descends in September.