Exxon apologized Monday for the nation's worst oil spill, and authorities said the captain of the oil company's tanker has taken steps to surrender to face charges of being drunk when the vessel ran aground.
"I want to tell you how sorry I am that this accident took place," Exxon Chairman L.G. Rawl said in full-page advertisements placed in U.S. newspapers."We cannot, of course, undo what has been done. But I can assure you that since March 24, the accident has been receiving our full attention and will continue to do so."
The Exxon Valdez rammed a reef on that day, spilling 10.1 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. Its captain, Joseph Hazelwood, admitted drinking before boarding the ship, according to court documents. Blood and urine samples taken nine hours after the accident indicated Hazelwood was drunk.
Exxon has fired Hazelwood. An arrest warrant has been issued in Alaska for him, but his whereabouts were unknown Sunday. There were indications that the Huntington, N.Y., resident had contacted an attorney and that a surrender might be worked out, said Sgt. Clifton Smith of the New York state police.
In other developments:
-The oil slick has turned to a swirling ugly brown glop on the brilliant blue sound and has grown to more than 1,000 square miles - bigger than the state of Rhode Island. It was moving primarily to the southwest toward salmon fisheries, fish-rich Seward area and Kenai Fjords National Park.
-Department of Fish and Game spokesman Jon Lyman said Monday a deer found dead on Naked Island about 25 miles southwest of the tanker had apparently eaten contaminated food, an indication of how rapidly the spill was spreading. "That's bad news. That's the top of the food chain," Lyman said.
-The Coast Guard said deliveries of North Slope crude oil will be allowed to return to near normal once the tanker is relieved of its remaining load, probably by Tuesday morning.
-A Soviet skimmer ship was en route to see what can be done with the oil in the sound.
-A six-person team of Norwegian oil-spill experts arrived Sunday to begin assisting in cleaning up the beaches and saving oil-soaked animals.
Documents filed with the arrest warrant say Hazelwood admitted drinking before boarding the ship and when asked what the problem was after it had ran aground, replied, "I think you're looking at it."
The ship was under command of an uncertified third mate when it struck the reef. Hazelwood has been charged with operating a ship while under the influence of alcohol, reckless endangerment and negligent discharge of oil. The oil has tainted an estimated 800 miles of beach.
Exxon Shipping Co. conceded Sunday its cleanup efforts haven't been working, but said a new, better-equipped assault was beginning Monday with more effective equipment, more manpower and a floating command post, the Crystal Star.
State officials have blasted Exxon's effort to scrub beaches as dismal and ineffective. Only 10,000 barrels, about 4 percent, of the barrels of thick crude that spewed into the sound have been recovered.
Frank Iarossi, the shipping company's president, agreed with the critics. "It's not the right thing to do. No way," Iarossi said.
Gov. Steve Cowper said the company has not been "adequate to the task, and we're going to do it ourselves."
Exxon said it has removed most of the 42 million gallons of crude oil left on the ship. Salvagers hope to refloat the Valdez by week's end, take it to a remote cove for repairs and then to a dry dock in Portland, Ore.