The Coast Guard confirmed Saturday that a fresh oil sheen has seeped from the ruptured Exxon Valdez and that a complete cleanup of the damaged tanker is impossible.
"Oil is clinging to the tanks inside," said Vice Adm. Clyde Robbins, the federal on-the-scene coordinator. "What we're getting is that clinging oil mixed with water that causes sheen."Unfortunately, it's impossible to completely remove the oil unless you steam clean the tanker, and nobody intends to do that."
Robbins did not give an estimate of how much oil sheen was involved.
He said he doubted the vessel, which is undergoing temporary repairs 30 miles from the March 24 site where the Exxon Valdez ruptured on a reef, will be moved soon.
"I'm estimating at least a month to six weeks," he said. "Obviously this is a hot potato. Nobody in the Lower 48 wants it. We may end up going to a foreign port."
Meanwhile, the chairman of Exxon Corp. lashed back at Alaska Gov. Steve Cowper for his criticism of Exxon's handling of the spill. According to a letter obtained late Friday by UPI, Exxon Chairman Lawrence Rawl accused the state government of misrepresenting Exxon's efforts to quickly disperse the oil spill.
The letter was in response to an attack earlier Friday by Cowper, who accused Exxon of "giving the state a black eye" and suggesting that state officials slowed Exxon's dispersement program.
"(Exxon) had enough dispersants on hand to contain the spill and significantly mitigate the impact of the oil," Rawl said.
He said he knew of no knowledgeable person who supported the governor's claims that dispersants increase the oil's toxicity.
"Unfortunately for all concerned, your (attack) does not set the record straight," Raul wrote Cowper. "In fact it perpetuates a good many wrong assertions."
State officials denied they hampered Exxon's chemical spraying ability in any way.
In a related development, the Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corp. has released more than 300 million salmon fry into the sound, and state officials indicated they were beginning tests to determine whether salmon fishing season will take place as scheduled in mid-May.
Already, the 10.9 million gallon spill has killed the herring and black cod season.
"We know the water isn't clear, but if we don't move there won't be salmon to harvest in the future," said Bruce Suzumoto, PWSAC president. Although only one in 10 hatchery fish returns to the sound as adults, they account for more than 90 percent of the harvest.
Exxon reported Saturday that it has paid out $500,000 to 150 fishermen on claims of lost work. It is processing another 300 claims.