EVOS and the Prince William Sound Long Term Environmental Monitoring Program
International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings
Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS), the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council began the Long-Term Environmental Monitoring Program (LTEMP) in 1993 to track oil hydrocarbon chemistry of recovering sediments and mussel tissues along the path of the spill in Prince William Sound (PWS) and across the Northern Gulf of Alaska (NGOA) region. The program also samples sites near the Alyeska Marine Terminal (AMT) within Port Valdez, primarily to monitor tanker operations
... nd the resulting treatment and discharge of oil-contaminated tanker ballast water. Over the last 28 years, the program has documented EVOS oil's disappearance at the spill-impacted sites (albeit buried oil still exists at a few unique sheltered locations in PWS). Within the Port, a few tanker- and diesel-spill incidents have been documented over the years, but all were minor and with recovery times of < 1 yr. Of highest concern has been the permitted chronic release of weathered oil from tankers' ballast-water that is treated and discharged at the Alyeska Marine Terminal (AMT). In earlier years (1980s–90s), with discharge volumes reaching 17–18 MGD, up to a barrel of finely dispersed weathered oil would be released into the fjord daily. Over the last two decades, total petrogenic inputs (TPAH43) into the Port have declined as measured in the monitored mussels and sediments. This trend reflects a combination of decreased Alaska North Slope (ANS) oil production and thus, less tanker traffic, plus less ballast from the transition to double-hulled tankers with segregated ballast tanks, and improved treatment-facility efficiency in removing PAH. From the 2018 collections, mussel-tissue hydrocarbon concentrations from all eleven LTEMP stations (within Port Valdez as well as PWS and NGOA regions) were below method detection limits and similar to laboratory blanks (TPAH43 < 44 ng/g dry wt.). At these low background levels, elevated TPAH values from a minor 2020 spill incident at the Terminal were easily detected at all three Port Valdez stations.