It’s still here after all these years.
The area of Prince William Sound in Alaska is breathtaking. The snow capped mountains are filled with brown bears, bald eagles and other wildlife. You can spot whales and sea otters swimming with a glacier off in the distance.
But talk to the people here and they’ll tell you they love the beauty, but big business is in their back yard and they are frustrated.
Earlier this summer the U.S. Supreme Court reduced punitive damages awarded to citizens of Prince William Sound over the Exxon Valdez oil spill here in 1989. A jury initially awarded $5 billion for the devastation here. In 1994, a federal court cut that in half. And in June, the Supreme Court cut it to $500 million - enraging many people living here. And now Exxon is arguing it shouldn't have to pay interest for the delay in making payments.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/04/art.oilinsoil.jpg caption="As AC360° Correspondent, David Mattingly dug into the soil on Knight Island, the oily residue was still present 19 years later." align=left]
You probably remember all the pictures after the Valdez spill. Wildlife soaked in crude oil, an oil slick as far as the eye can see. While the oil never touched the fishing town of Cordova, the economic impact was huge. People went bankrupt, their fishing business and way of life was destroyed.
Ask them and they tell you the oil is still there in remote areas, so we decided to look for ourselves. We flew out to Knight Island about 50 miles from Cordova where scientists have been testing the beaches.
The minute we got out of the float plane we could smell the oil in the marsh in low tide. All it took was a shovel and you could find the oily residue mixed with sediment still on the beach, 19 years after the spill. People in Cordova say it’s a reminder of what happened here nearly 2 decades ago when their town was thriving.
Now, they say, it just struggles to get by.
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