Sea Briefs is a report on the results of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium.
Editor: Melissa Schneider
is available in PDF format from:
MASGC supports applied, interdisciplinary marine science research, education and outreach efforts to foster the sustainable development and management of the Mississippi and Alabama coasts and nearshore ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico
JOE BANTA is project manager for the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council Environmental Monitoring Program. Joe has worked for PWSRCAC since 1990. He has a background in fishing and fisheries and grew up in Cordova and Prince William Sound. He holds a permit to gillnet for herring in PWS. During the first season of response to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, he participated in wildlife rescue operations. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master of arts in teaching from the University of Alaska Anchorage. While he now manages projects under the Environmental Monitoring Program, he also has managed projects under the council’s Oil Spill Prevention and Response Planning Program.
What is the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council?
In a few words, the PWSRCAC is an “anti-complacency group.” But more technically, the council was formed after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 to provide a voice for communities affected by oil industry decisions in Prince William Sound, the Gulf of Alaska and Cook Inlet. The council is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to promote environmentally safe operation of Alyeska Pipeline’s Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers.
2. How do the effects of a technological disaster differ from those of a natural disaster?
We are all probably well aware of natural disasters, such as storms, floods, hurricanes, etc. They can do serious damage to communities and properties, but then the residents of the communities pull together to repair and rebuild their community. Technological, or man-made, disasters tend to have a greater emotional impact on people. Technological disasters can disrupt an ecosystem for many years and tend to disrupt the psychological well-being of communities for long periods of time. With this type of disaster there is a responsible party to blame that has wrought these impacts upon the community. Often these impacts affect community members in an uneven manner.
Technological disasters disrupt communities on multiple levels. The most obvious and tangible disruptions occur when the flow of goods, routine services and jobs are adversely impacted. However, there are other often ignored, poorly defined, poorly understood, intangible adverse impacts stemming from a technological disaster. These include initial negative mental health impacts and chronic long-term psychological and physical impacts. Long after the initial response has ended and the local government has returned to routine day-to-day operations, adverse psychological impacts associated with disaster continue to erode the social fabric of the community. Results of Exxon Valdez oil spill studies indicate that mental health impacts persisted 20 years post-spill.
What is the peer-listening training program and how was it effective?
Many people affected by technological disasters are reluctant to use traditional mental health services. Often those affected might not even be aware they could use such services. Research has shown traditional mental health services may not be effective in dealing with the long-term effects of disasters. One method for addressing these difficulties is the use of informal social support networks with trained peer listeners.
Properly trained peer listeners can provide a number of services to the community, from serving as an available ear to assisting in problem solving to providing referrals to professionals. Peer listeners drawn from the community are more likely to be trusted than outsiders because they possess an understanding of the community and its relationship to the disaster. Surveys done after the Exxon Valdez oil spill indicate that the peer-listener program helped people deal with the stresses of the spill.
What is the PWSRCAC's stance on dispersants and why does the council
take that stance?
After years of promoting research and testing to increase knowledge about dispersants and the environmental consequences of their use, the council in 2006 adopted a position against the use of dispersants in the Exxon Valdez oil spill region. This position was taken because, despite all the years of research and testing, the council couldn't find any good sources of independent, peer-reviewed research that demonstrated dispersants work in our waters.
5. What has the PWSRCAC been able to accomplish to help decrease the chance of catastrophic oil spills?
In more than two decades of existence, the council working closely with industry and regulators has made many contributions to improving the environmental safety of oil-industry operations in Alaska waters. A few of these include: