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Sierra Club Productions

Sierra Club Chronicles
Episode 2: The Day The Water Died

Watch the full episode below:

About this Episode
March 24, 1989 will forever plague history as one of the worst environmental disasters of our time. Eleven million gallons of oil spilled into the Prince William Sound killing thousands of wildlife and destroying a complex and delicate ecosystem. Exxon promised they would clean up the spill and promised that those affected would get their lives back. Seventeen years later and the people are still waiting for their lives to become "whole" again.

Ross Mullins - commercial fisherman and Cordova businessman, Dune Lankard - Eyak tribesman and environmental activist, Riki Ott - marine biologist and former commercial fisherman, are among many others who describe the historic the spill, the immediate emotional impact it had on them, and how, 16 years later, Exxon has still not paid the court-ordered punitive damages. Our characters go on to tell us that the citizens of Cordova have not recovered from spill: emotionally, spiritually, economically, and environmentally. This devastation has generated a strong distrust for corporations like Exxon and the government that should be looking out for them.

Exxon's promises in the immediate aftermath of the spill were not kept. The film's characters contrast those assurances with the reality they confronted in court. In a class-action ruling a federal court ordered Exxon to pay of $5 billion to 32,000 plaintiffs. But in the years since that ruling, Exxon has pursued endless appeals. The case is now stuck in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, 2,000 plaintiffs have died since the first court ruling.

While Exxon has ducked behind the courts, the economy of Cordova has not recovered. The fishermen say at the time of the spill, the salmon and herring markets were the strongest in the history of Cordova's fishing industry.

During the seventeen years since the spill, the environment in Prince William Sound has yet to recover. The strongest evidence is that the herring fishery, Cordova's most profitable fish stock, has been eliminated from the sound. Marine biologist and Cordova resident, Riki Ott, tells us how that fact that the herring hasn't returned points to the fact that the Sound is still toxic. Exxon-Mobil has made record profits again this year, so why can't they make good on their promise?

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