The federal government said in its first comprehensive report on the damage from the Exxon Valdez disaster that the crude oil spilled two years ago continues to harm wildlife.
The report, filed in federal court Monday, dropped the secrecy surrounding estimates of the long-term toll that were withheld because of lawsuits against Exxon Corp. and the state by governments, fishermen and native Alaskans.The 19-page report is a summary of preliminary findings in dozens of scientific studies conducted since the tanker ran aground March 24, 1989, dumping 10.9 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.
Exxon spent $2.2 billion cleaning up the spill. Four weeks ago it reached agreement on a $1 billion settlement with the U.S. government and the state. The settlement still needs approval from the Legislature and a federal judge.
In recent months Exxon has run a nationwide campaign presenting the sound as largely recovered from the spill.
But Monday's report said that crude from the nation's worst oil spill contaminated sediment 330 feet below the sound's surface and that contaminated clams and other invertebrates continue to affect marine mammals.
"There are indications that injury is continuing," said Paul Gertler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Gertler said the information will help the public judge the proposed settlement.
Exxon officials in Alaska hadn't seen the report and had no immediate comment.