Dan Simon | BIO
With the oil leak in the Gulf, we wanted to see what things are like two decades after the worst spill in U.S. history. So we headed north to Cordova, Alaska, a small fishing community most affected by the the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.
It’s clear the community is still living with the aftermath. Residents tell us the financial and emotional stress brought on by the spill resulted in divorces, suicides and alcoholism. We spent some time with a guy named John Platt. He’s a third generation commercial fishermen and says the last 21 years have been a nightmare. He and other fishermen here relied on the area’s booming herring fisheries. But a few years after the spill, the herring disappeared and haven’t returned since. Incomes plummeted. Platt says the misery nearly cost him his marriage. Last year, he got his final payout from Exxon-- about a half million dollars. That sounds like a lot of money, except most of it went to paying off liens for his fishing permits and boats.
Cordova has a science center basically dedicated to the spill. When you walk in, visitors are greeted by several jars of oil. It’s residue from the spill. I was surprised to learn it can still be easily found. We got the sense that residents were grateful for the new round of publicity. They don’t want to be forgotten. As fisherman John Plott told me, “I think the general perception is that we were compensated a long time ago– that everything is rosy… that's not the case.” Indeed it isn’t.
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