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David Janka
David Janka

David Janka was interviewed in Cordova, Alaska on October 1, 2007. David's interview was conducted as part of Sharon Bushell's work on the book, The Spill: Personal Stories from the Exxon Valdez Disaster, by Stan Jones and Sharon Bushell. (Kenmore, WA: Epicenter Press, 2009). In this interview, David talks about his work on the oil spill cleanup, his thoughts on the management of the Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup, and the emotional impact the oil spill had on the people of Cordova, Alaska.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-26-05

Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Date of Interview: Oct 1, 2007
Narrator(s): David Janka
Interviewer(s): Sharon Bushell
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
Alaska Resources Library & Information Services, Alaska State Library, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Dave Janka's experience with the oil spill

Working on the oil spill cleanup

Deciding to leave the cleanup effort

The community's method of coping with the spill

Feeling better about the cleanup efforts after the first year

Assessing blame for the oil spill

The emotional impact of the oil spill

Thoughts on mismanagement of the spill and lessons to be learned

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


SHARON BUSHELL: Okay. Today is the 1st of October and I am in Cordova and I am interviewing Dave Janka. So -- and this tape has to be changed every half hour.

DAVE JANKA: Okay. SHARON BUSHELL: So I’ll be looking to --

DAVE JANKA: Watching that, yeah.

SHARON BUSHELL: I’ll be watching that myself so.


SHARON BUSHELL: So tell me about your experience with the oil spill, Dave.

DAVE JANKA: Well, in 1989 I was living outside Valdez. Stan Stephens Valdez had an overnight camp facility and salmon bake out at Glacier Island and that we had -- my wife and I had been helping run the camp in the summers and that particular winter we decided to try living alone remote.

SHARON BUSHELL: Uh-huh. DAVE JANKA: Through the winter. So we talked Stan into letting us care take it for that winter so we actually lived about ten miles due west of Bligh Reef so we were actually living right out there when it took place.

Actually that day, late afternoon, I was coming back from Valdez in a skiff with supplies, mail. I would go into town once a month to do that and so I was about five hours ahead of the tanker departing going out Valdez Arm and got in -- got back to the camp pretty late because of all the glacier ice even with the skiff that I had to slow down and work through which is one of the things that the tanker had to, you know, had changed its course to avoid some of the ice later on that evening, so.

And then woke up to a nice peaceful morning and put on my headset for the radio to listen to public radio out of Valdez and had a rude awakening of what had just taken place nearby. So we listened to the news very attentively that morning and had a --

SHARON BUSHELL: What’s your first thought?

DAVE JANKA: Picked up the -- oh, it was a surprise because I knew, you know, at that point there was a lot of information out about the quality of the wells on the tanker fleet that the TAPS tankers make up something, oh what is it, 20 percent of the US fleet at that time and yet they accounted for 60 percent of the structural issues. I had always figured something is going to happen because of that.

SHARON BUSHELL: Right. DAVE JANKA: But it is going to be a major crack or break up out in the gulf.


DAVE JANKA: Something along those lines and that something is -- is -- is so, you know, idiotic, as a drunk skipper.

SHARON BUSHELL: That's just what I was thinking. Idiotic is the word I was thinking.

DAVE JANKA: Yeah, yeah.

SHARON BUSHELL: So you guys packed up?

DAVE JANKA: So we packed up the skiff and headed out there to see what was going on as my wife Annette and daughter Holly who was about four then and we saw a couple of boats anchored nearby toward Ellamar and Tatitlek, some people we knew from there were anchored and we visited with them. They were ready to go to work.

They had worked on a small spill within Port Valdez that winter so they had experience with it and they were just waiting.


DAVE JANKA: So we visited with them for awhile and it was, you know, it was amazingly quiet out there. You know a helicopter coming and going and when we tried to skiff a little closer toward Reef Island and the tanker -- there was a small Coast Guard boat there that shoo’d us away and they were clueless about asking, you know, we were asking them about oil to the beaches, wildlife, things like that they were pretty clueless.

They were just kids patrolling a parameter and then we zipped around the back side of Reef Island real fast. The boat and the helicopter went around the other side and thought we were going to go -- go to those beaches anyway, but we just went into a backside beach, had a picnic and then I hiked up to the top of the island to look down on the tanker and by the time we were done with our picnic then the boat and the helicopter were gone so then we could go explore more of the beaches and see if anything was happening, but everything was going south and west of the reef and not up toward Reef Island.

And as the day wore on we headed back to the -- to the camp and early the next morning on the radio got a call from one of those -- those people I knew on the boat from Ellamar who had then finally got hired on that evening and had worked all through the night and needed some help, so then --

SHARON BUSHELL: And working at what capacity?

DAVE JANKA: Towing a boom. So then I -- my wife ran me out there in the Zodiac to join him and work with him so were hooked onto a boom -- one end of -- it was a quarter of a mile -- impressive piece of equipment, you know.

It was a large diameter containment boom, quarter mile long. We were on one end of it. The other end was attached to the corner of a barge. Another little fishing boat had another boom heading out the other direction.

So we had a big V off this barge and that barge had a tug that was controlling its direction and speed and we were keeping tension on the booms and they had oil recovery skimmers inside the base of it.

So for a while we were, you know, felt pretty good because we were actually doing something, but the kind of equipment would clog easily with -- with sticks and because there was a lot of ice in the area icebergs had to be kept out of it.

And then it wasn’t too long that the generator that ran the air pump that kept the boom inflated started acting up and that’s when some mechanics from Alyeska came over and they -- they already knew what the problem was. It was a bad fuel pump and they just never replaced it. So that was like the first sign of the complacency --

SHARON BUSHELL: Incompetence --

DAVE JANKA: Coming, yeah, coming around not only was the, you know, the state not inspecting the equipment to make sure it was up to snuff, but then also the oil companies were, you know, just letting things go down hill and not keeping up the maintenance. So I stayed out on that boat for about four or five days.


DAVE JANKA: Including when that north wind blew. We weren’t notified of the north winds so we were stuck on this quarter mile of boom with a gale blowing trying to keep it -- not lose it and get into the lee of Bligh Island to try to save it and, of course, we were doing all this work -- very cold because we didn’t have the stove -- stove on because we were worried about, you know, any ignition from the fumes.

There was a test burn of some of the oil. In the middle of the night all of a sudden this flame comes shooting up off in the distance and there is no notification of that and that was --

SHARON BUSHELL: Someone did that test burn happened in the middle of the night?

DAVE JANKA: Yes, yeah, with no notification, so there was quite -- there is a lot of anxiety when things like that happen. You’re there freezing, you know, because you don’t have your heater on in your boat and then all of a sudden this test burn takes place you’re like I didn’t wait but about two seconds to get on the radio and I said somebody tell me that’s supposed to be happening, you know -- it was -- and then --

SHARON BUSHELL: So when -- when -- who do you call about that?

DAVE JANKA: Well we -- our -- the two boats on the boom and that barge and such we just had -- had a channel we were working on. Other people had other channels.

SHARON BUSHELL: So you weren’t -- I mean it is not like you were calling Alyeska about that?

DAVE JANKA: It was just generally some of the other work boats which some of them were Alyeska because they were the only ones responding at that point in those first few days.


DAVE JANKA: And it was just generally on that radio frequency let them to ask. You know, so, you know that whole frustration was building up pretty quickly, you know, between, you know, we’re all on this other channel and very focused and busy on what we’re doing and not listening to the weather forecasts, but you would have thought that somebody would have been watching that for you and notify -- oh, there’s a gale coming, let’s break down and get under cover before that hits.

Oh, we’re going to have a test of a burn over here -- a little announcement, but that sort of thing didn’t happen. And then after the -- that north wind blew for about a day then we took off down to Knight Island following where the oil had went and still had that boom intact. After working down there for about a day or so, we were just beat. We hadn’t had much sleep ourselves and by this time other boats were showing up that could relieve us.

So then we tucked into a bay on Knight Island and got a few hours of sleep. And during that time is when the -- we were on the west side of Knight Island where a large mat of oil had -- that north wind had blown over there but it was just sitting offshore for about a day or so. Then a localized west wind came up that night that we went in and it just slammed that oil onto the west side of Knight Island. So the east side got it from the north wind blowing the oil down and then it was another day or so later that this oil that had kind of come into the lee of Knight Island and then got blown in to that side.

So that northern Knight Island had gotten hit with both sides. So when we came out from our little break was the first time I saw the oiled beaches and such that -- that boom we had been using had gotten all tangled up with that west wind with new boats that hadn’t used it and not sure who was organizing what but they had three or four of these quarter mile booms in this huge tangle so that we started working and trying to get them untangled and laying across three or four them -- oily booms with a knife on a broomstick trying to cut the lines that are connecting them and getting them untangled and some of those pumps were starting to die -- die completely now.

So we were trying to get them untangled so that we could move them into shallower water so that once the boom itself started to deflate and sink it would just hit the bottom and the little boat that had the generator and stuff would stay floating and then later -- we found out later actually a friend of mine was working as a mechanic.

He came out later and actually fixed the one that we had gotten into some shallow water and kept from sinking and got it working again. And then it was about that time then the Exxon people, you know, started showing up and that’s when they came on the boat. It was their attitude, their, you know, arrogance and the way they were describing how things were going to go after all -- after these days of -- of near death experiences and frustrations that that was just enough for me.

I had it and I said I’m not going to stay out here any longer.

SHARON BUSHELL: And what -- what did they say about how things were going to go?

DAVE JANKA: Well it didn’t -- didn’t give me any confidence that they had, you know, I could see that it was going to turn into a, you know, of course, that was our first news as to just how big the spill was and where it went and what was going on, so that just the size of the response was overwhelming to me.

You know, the navy was coming in and things like that. Some of those things were just -- just seemed overwhelming to me so what was going to happen --

SHARON BUSHELL: So that information was related to via the Exxon --

DAVE JANKA: Right, right. Right -- and then it was -- he was, you know, classic configuration you see still being practiced with -- with boats and boom as you know, boat on each end and they’ve got this big semicircle and immediately goes well we know this doesn’t work. This is just a waste of time.

And yet there are boats all around just doing it and, you know, because what happens is the oil builds up in the back of those booms and then it trains underneath and comes out the other side.


DAVE JANKA: You don’t go as fast. You get a skimmer and there are other ways of doing it. So it was just his, you know, coming in there and his way of presenting all of that way was just, you know, without any, you know, feeling about what an event this was to us who were, you know, locally -- locals living there.


DAVE JANKA: And so then I just decided if I stayed out here either -- either I’m going to come close to killing somebody over some issue or somebody is going to take issue with me the same way so I -- I went back and went back to be closer to the family and to my previous job commitment at that overnight camp and then spent the summer mostly just being able to pass along information -- real information to the visitors that were still coming through.


DAVE JANKA: Through there. Then later on then that even that I burned out with because it was hard to get other help because everybody was wanting to work on the oil spill.

SHARON BUSHELL: Right. DAVE JANKA: And then it was also frustrating -- oh, should I have stayed out there and made more money or should I have done this and be close to the family and, you know, that is very, very frustrating so I didn’t -- I finished out that summer, but then didn’t work there.

SHARON BUSHELL: Well tell me some more of the drama of being so close to the Exxon Valdez in those first few days and being right there where all the oil was I mean not very many people who can tell that story.

DAVE JANKA: Yeah. No, it -- it - you just get carried along by it. It is just so surreal, you know, it is just so massive. There’s no, you know, obvious nothing you as an individual can really do about it right there.

So you’re just there hoping, you know, trying to figure out what you can do to help, but, of course, there is no plan, no organization to anything so it -- it was very frustrating.


SHARON BUSHELL: Could you see the writing on the walls as far as I mean with the knowledge that you have of how oil spills progress and the likelihood of fetching up very much of a percentage of it, did this just -- was this just obviously a catastrophe right off the bat or was there --

DAVE JANKA: Yeah, I wish in those first day or two I would have sat down and written out what I was thinking was going to happen, you know, later that year, five years later or ten years later and then now open it and read it.

It would have been interesting and its -- and -- I think it would have followed pretty close, you know, just knowing.


DAVE JANKA: Knowing the nature of it all and seeing what was happening, you know, the initial part of seeing what was happening and such that -- because I already from I came up and moved to Valdez -- came into Valdez for a visit in 1976 and then moved there in 1977 and lived there until ’93 when we moved over here to Cordova.

So right now it is 30 years in the Sound so a lot more gray hairs than when I got here that’s for sure.


DAVE JANKA: But seeing other events that have happened in Prince William Sound and still see -- see their changes still that was 1964 earthquake or some of the smaller oil spills that took place during the ’64 earthquake that you still find evidence of out there and then this is such a larger magnitude with crude oil, you know, that is going to stay at least as long as that did if not longer so.

And it -- you deny a lot of it too even though you’re looking right at it. I mean the whole thing follows as other people have looked at it and found this to be the case. It is very similar to losing a loved one and you go through this denial and acceptance and there is a whole series of -- of levels of --


DAVE JANKA: -- feelings you go through after something like that. It was very similar.


DAVE JANKA: And, of course, being there right from the start you’re on a different time frame than other people who are coming into it later. I remember after I came back into town from being out there, a good friend of mine was having a birthday and, of course, they had been dealing with -- with things in town as well for a week.

SHARON BUSHELL: And when you say town --

DAVE JANKA: In Valdez. I was in Valdez at the time and we had all been dealing with all this for a week plus and there was all these new people coming in, you know, oil people, scientists, environmental folks, news people and things and well, we -- we went out to celebrate her birthday.

And almost went over the edge of just being crazy silly with it all and a lot of that was in the -- it is actually a normal response and a process of going through after some of the --


DAVE JANKA: Grief acceptance thing, but it was interesting to see some of these people just taken aback. How could you be doing this while this is going on when it was just --


DAVE JANKA: Show that disconnect of, you know, we were on a different level -- a different time line than they were with it.

SHARON BUSHELL: A different step of your grief reaction.


DAVE JANKA: Right and even when I -- when my family and I went out that first time to go see what it was all looking like and happening and then we went back to the camp and it was either that evening or that -- I think it was the next morning but before I went out to join the fellow on his boat there was some sheet ice in the bay that, you know, for the winter had been frozen up.

And there was a sea otter up on the edge of that ice and it was just acting very strange and I was -- we came up with every possibility of what it was -- what was happening except oiling.

You know, we were still not real, you know, not wanting to except the fact that here we are ten miles away, there is this oil spill there and that this, you know, then in retrospect now you realize yeah, it got a little bit of oil on it.

It came as far away from that as it could and hauled out and was trying to clean itself and it died during that night on the ice and then by morning it was just skin and bones from the eagles and birds coming in to pick it apart.

SHARON BUSHELL: So tell me in what way it was acting crazy.

DAVE JANKA: Oh, it was just over -- overly cleaning itself, you know --

SHARON BUSHELL: Like a frenzy?

DAVE JANKA: Yeah, very frenzied and then also when it would stop sometimes it would have these twitchings and -- and movements around its abdomen and such like that, so it was probably from ingesting, you know, as well as probably going hypothermic from its fur losing its --

SHARON BUSHELL: But, you know -- DAVE JANKA: It's heating capacity for the oil.

SHARON BUSHELL: It was the same one because when you went by the next day that was where it was?

DAVE JANKA: Right, right, it was -- it was dead and mostly showing bones from the --


DAVE JANKA: So it was -- it was still -- it was just, you know, this huge magnitude event taking place and we still, you know, we were still in that denial well this couldn’t be happening like this right here.

SHARON BUSHELL: So when you saw the cadaver of that -- sort of put things in a different perspective for you?

DAVE JANKA: It did. It did, yeah, yeah and then once I got out there, you know, you wouldn’t see, you know, it was very quiet, you know, there is not many wildlife from the oil was just so thick on the water and you -- a lot of people would take the oil all after, whatever, but it would be the fact the oil was so thick you might see a little convex bump on the oil and you could start realizing that’s probably a bird.

You know you could not even see it, you know, at that point.

SHARON BUSHELL: Yeah. DAVE JANKA: So, you know, those were probably the ones that, you know, you would never would have seen to be able to recover to add to the body count.

SHARON BUSHELL: They never got counted.


SHARON BUSHELL: Such an awful thing.

DAVE JANKA: And then after -- then the following year 1990 and ’91 came, felt better about going out there just because it was more organized. It wasn’t the complete circus war zone kind of atmosphere and did go out with some local response project, some relief skippering on some vessels as well as --

SHARON BUSHELL: And doing what was your project then?

DAVE JANKA: Well, with the relief skippering we -- there would be small boat groups out there specifically assigned to different agencies so for one period of time it was helping run a boat that was just strictly at the Coast Guard’s disposal to run around and look at the different work crews that were --

SHARON BUSHELL: So people were still -- people were cleaning the following summer?

DAVE JANKA: In ’90, oh, two more years, ’90 and ’91 there was still major --


DAVE JANKA: Major cleanup -- I’m sorry, major cleanup in ’90 and a little less in ’91.


DAVE JANKA: Mostly the bioremediation.



SHARON BUSHELL: So in what manner of cleaning were they doing cleaning in ’90?

DAVE JANKA: Pretty much everything, except the larger hosing down and pressure spraying. They were really bringing in the bioremediation a lot -- a lot of beach berm relocation and tilling of the soils.

SHARON BUSHELL: So at that point you said you felt better about the thing so there wasn’t as much -- I mean obviously during the winter a lot of the oil went out, but there was still a lot.

DAVE JANKA: Was it wasn’t on the water --

SHARON BUSHELL: Yeah. DAVE JANKA: But it was all on the beaches now so that was all directed toward --

SHARON BUSHELL: And how long did it take before you could actually -- I know that you can still dig down and then get oil today.

DAVE JANKA: Right, you know, you don’t have to dig too far either in some locations. In some places it is still is on the surface, but the majority of the residual oil is subsurface oil sediments.

SHARON BUSHELL: Uh-huh. DAVE JANKA: But there are some -- some places it is still you could just step on it if you didn’t know you were there and that’s just starting -- those areas are just really starting to harden up and really dry out, but there are still some that you could do -- you can get at it easily with a pocketknife or just turning over a rock and still have it. It still looks like oil and smells like oil.


DAVE JANKA: The tests they do on it -- it is still oil and toxic so.

SHARON BUSHELL: Not that this isn’t necessarily going to be in the story and I want you to know you have control of that because once I edit this down for length and before it goes into the book I’ll be sending you a copy of the text.

DAVE JANKA: Oh, oh, that’s nice, oh.

SHARON BUSHELL: You know, If there is something that you -- needs correction.

DAVE JANKA: Uh-huh. SHARON BUSHELL: Or if you can think of a word that you had wished you had thought to use at the time.

DAVE JANKA: Okay. Oh, yeah. SHARON BUSHELL: I will persuade you to do that. But I’m just curious about -- see, you know, I was living in Homer, had a couple of little kids at the time and my husband and I didn’t -- didn’t have anything to do with the fishing industry or anything so it was just something we were monitoring, but now that I’ve gotten so involved in this project I just -- seems to me like there is a corollary between what’s going on in our country right now in terms of the war and this whole thing, the oil spill in the sense that you’re hamstrung.

You’re just watching a situation that you can’t do anything about. It is getting worse and worse. How -- how could you ever living -- living here in the Sound how could you ever get over it? Do you get over it?

DAVE JANKA: There is -- I get out a lot out there mostly, you know, I run a charter boat business and we do custom overnight trips all over the Sound. A lot of it is related to agency research, work trips and then a lot of its natural history trips with tourists and, of course it's just, it ends up now being, you know, part of the history of Prince William Sound.


DAVE JANKA: So you are having to discuss it, but you’re always having to let people know or they will ask was this area oiled? Or where was the oil? Or what is it like now? And if we’re in that kind of an area, well certainly some people are interested and we’ll stop and look at it.

Tended with time too not directly bring it -- no, I do, because I always have these little jars of samples I like to give to people even though I could say I show them on the map, you know, this is not where we’re at, but this came from here and this is what -- what it’s like and, but more often than not though they will ask I enjoy the tourist trips a lot because they will tend to not be in the oil impacted areas and it is nice to walk on the beach and not be looking for oil to put into a jar.


DAVID JANKA: And I guess it’s, you know, I mean -- I mean it’s hard to get away from it whether it’s the -- you’re in an area that was impacted by the oil or if you’re crossing the tanker lanes even if there isn’t a tanker around you know you’re crossing the tanker lanes from what is written on the charts.

So it is all -- or you’re going to see an escort vessel or there is the pre-positioned spill equipment that is placed in different locations in the Sound. You’ll pass those bays and see that equipment.

So it is, you know, whether it is the industry as well as tied in with the spill itself, it is something that is not really -- you can’t really put it behind you because the threats there for it to happen again as well.

SHARON BUSHELL: Right. Well, I guess another way of putting it and once again this is just for my own try to cycle this thing out. At the time that it happened, of course, there was that big focus on Hazelwood and then the trial and making him the bad guy in the whole thing.

And now it is almost like he is -- he is almost irrelevant when I look at the whole picture. That people have come to that -- that notion that the way the system was so screwed up that, you know, it’s like Riki Ott said, it is not if but when. I don’t know. I guess I don’t even have a question beyond that. I just -- it just drives me crazy.

DAVE JANKA: Yeah, yeah.

SHARON BUSHELL: It just drives me crazy that --

DAVE JANKA: Well, you do. I mean after the -- it certainly assisted with the spin for the oil industry to actually focus on an individual -- the captain and pull attention away from some of the other -- other things going on whether -- there are people down south who wasn’t until years later that they even knew that the tanker was -- had been, you know, maneuvered to avoid ice coming out of the Columbia Glacier.

Which had been an issue even before tankers started going was Columbia Glacier and it is always on the verge of this catastrophic retreat that was going to put out a lot of ice and a lot of study related to it and but then most all the news reports that went out of state had dropped the ice issue and everything was focused in on this, you know, the drunk captain scenario and, of course, then it also put aside well exactly how much oil was spilled.

That couldn’t have got put aside. Some of the other problems going on too and such could -- build that up as a more of an attention getter over time. And now, like you say, you know Hazelwood is an individual -- well, now that wasn’t the real problem. Part of the problem was that here was an oil company that allowed an individual like that who didn’t even have a driver’s license because of drinking problems to run their tanker.

You know, that’s the bigger issue than the -- the --


DAVE JANKA: The skipper himself. And then now with, you know, in ’91 -- let’s say it was ’91 I was involved with one of the last of the big beach surveys where they walk every section of beach and they’ve got maps that’s show what the last oil geomorphologist mapped out earlier that year, the year before, whatever.

SHARON BUSHELL: So what did you use?

DAVE JANKA: Oil geomorphologist. A geologist who is into oil on beaches.


DAVE JANKA: And it was, you know, almost like a consultant hire by the oil industry so you had this whole little flock of people hitting all these -- it would be six different groups were walking the beaches and you’d have an Exxon rep and you’d have a couple of VECO workers and you’d have this oil geomorphologist. Then you’d have the Coast Guard. You’d have the upland landowner which was quite often the forest service or Native corporation landowner.

And you’d have a NOAA biologist out there and a DEC rep. So there would be all these people wandering and that particular survey -- one of the last ones they did in that size of -- we -- we, the local response groups and local communities got them to include a local representative on there too so I was able to join one of those.

And, you know, they go on these beaches and, of course, everybody except the DEC person and myself would be trying - we’d be wanting to start mapping out the subsurface oil, but none of them wanted anything that was going to take too long and that is not what they were there for.

So Exxon already had even NOAA and the Coast Guard at the time to try to ignore that subsurface oil and only look at the -- be mapping the surface. And the DEC person would really hold up the group.

SHARON BUSHELL: Uh-huh. DAVE JANKA: Because he wanted -- because the map showed it, you know, they showed well here it is we should make sure and double check here now a year after this map was done whether -- where this oil is and we got to some of them, but the sheer push of all these other people wanted to keep moving we couldn’t do it all.

But all these people would -- would sign off on these beaches saying okay, yeah, there is still oil here but it is going to be gone in a few years and to come back in and try to remove these patches of oil would, you know, would not be cost effective, would do more disruption maybe then we really need because this oil will just be gone in a few years.

And everybody from top to bottom that’s what their impression was that this is what is going to happen and, of course, how we’ve learned that was the big thing that didn’t happen. That was the unanticipated issue -- the unanticipated damage was that this oil was not going to go away in just a few years and that it is still there and it is still toxic and we learned that it is more toxic than we thought it was before.

SHARON BUSHELL: Huh. So your hunch was right. You should have gone back and removed it.

DAVE JANKA: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And then they allowed a -- what was should have been an acute problem, you know, this incident takes place. You get all that oil out of there and it's done, but by leaving that oil there they turned it into a chronic --


SHARON BUSHELL: Yeah. DAVE JANKA: And it is there.

SHARON BUSHELL: Well, I have to say, Dave, you’ve got a pretty -- you’ve got a pretty good attitude about it.

DAVE JANKA: Yeah, I often wonder why. I mean in some -- some respects I think if I had stayed out there after those first five, six days and stayed out there when I talk to other people they come back to many of these bays and coves and they cannot get the image out of their head of a -- 500 people and these big barges with these big spraying arms and the oil three feet thick on the beach and things like -- they cannot get that -- they can’t go to those beaches without thinking of it by its number KN501.


DAVE JANKA: And with these hundreds of people and this thick oil there and I think in some respects in the back of mind or maybe at the time at the front of my mind I was thinking it is not going to be healthy for my long-term health of living -- of wanting to stay here.


DAVE JANKA: To see it that way and that might have been some of the decision processes of leaving it and I was getting away from it after this first five, six days and then coming back to it, you know, in future years with a little more organized and quite not as --

SHARON BUSHELL: Right. So what you’re saying is that bays and coves that always before were known by their names once they were put on a grid those -- that’s how people associate -- I mean even though the old names obviously still exist.

DAVE JANKA: Right or some of them might not even had names before, but --

SHARON BUSHELL: Right. DAVE JANKA: Or the -- yeah, or then there is also names that are given so many places that just still stick like Death Marsh.


DAVE JANKA: Or Diesel Beach or things like that, you know, there are those kinds of names that still sort of stick and you can’t get rid of them. That’s mostly because of the amount of oil that is still there or the impacts of some of the chemicals they tried to use. The Diesel Beach one is just because of some of the other chemicals they tried to use as a test to wash it off.

Smelled more probably more impact than the oil did and then there is the thing too a lot of people I have a hard time with is they say well, you know, the cleanup, you know, had done, you know, had done damage or sometimes they did more damage than harm than good or something like that although I have a hard time with that because the thing that is the problem is we have left a toxic substance sitting on the beach out there that is continuing to contaminate food sources of animals and such.

And the -- the problem with the -- it’s the cart before the horse. People are just not in -- and these are people who are going to make decisions in the next spill are not seeing that it was a mismanagement of the cleanup that did any of these damages. You know, you needed to go in and you needed to get this oil out of there somehow or another and especially in the first year nobody had a clue of what to do so they were throwing everything at it.

You had people managing crews that didn’t know a high tide from a low tide, a biologically rich zone of the beach from a dead zone of the beach. So they would tend to start they were on an 8 to 5 schedule with their crew. They are washing this oil to the water so that they could recover it and after a week you start getting into the new or full moon tides.

The tides are getting bigger and all of a sudden instead of just working on this barren gravel rock area of the beach all a sudden these rich biological zones of the beach are being exposed, but they are continuing to work 8 to 5 and washing the oil down into those areas and into the water.

Now is that -- does that mean that cleanup did more damage and we shouldn’t do it next time? No, it is just that there was a mismanagement of the cleanup and we just have to come in there with a better understanding of what we’re doing and where we are doing it.

And it is very hard I mean. You hear even, you know, NOAA people talking about the spill in Spain recently. Well, we’ve learned from the Exxon Valdez that cleanup can do more harm than good. It was a mismanagement of the cleanup and pretty much just in ’89, but they’re taking that and extrapolating that out to future spills. I think it is going to be a real -- it is going to be real damaging in the future.

SHARON BUSHELL: Good point. Yeah, because I have certainly heard that a number of times, but that’s a -- a fine distinction and it needs to be put down on paper for people to think about it.

DAVE JANKA: Yeah, yeah, yeah, because you couldn’t -- one of the local response projects I worked Governor Cooper at the time got a lot of pressure from local communities because the Exxon and in turn for safety the Coast Guard. Everybody had such control over the areas impacted by the spill it was very difficult for anybody to do anything unless you were hired by the oil company and be on their crews to work.

So some money was made available to communities within the spill impacted areas to put together a local response plan -- projects and the Coast Guard and Exxon wouldn’t allow them into the actual oiled areas when they were working so really restricted what could be done.

A lot of it ended up being trash pickup and there was a lot of spill related trash in and out of the spill zone areas, but we worked some out of Valdez which the program was managed by the Prince William Sound Conservation Alliance at the time and we went back and this was in ’90 -- fall of ’91 after all the cleanup was finished, but there were some areas near salmon streams that Fish & Game knew there was these patches of oil remaining and they were in the immediate drainages of some salmon streams and they were not comfortable with having these big VECO crews come out and do cleanup because they were just -- they were just too heavy-handed.

But we worked out a setup with a small group of people with a little extra sensitivity trying to get the salmon streams. Went in there pretty much with hand tools and we’d find these patches of oil and -- and either if it was very heavily oiled, we’d remove the sediments completely or we would just till it through a number of tides and just surgically work some of these patches of these residual oils close to a salmon stream.

So it really showed that you can go back in there and carefully finish up because I have gone back and unfortunately we didn’t add any funding to that -- to that project for any follow-up to it because we documented our work very well, but we didn’t follow-up and go what -- or have a control with it.

But I’ve gone back to some areas and I can’t find oil in the sediments and things are growing real nice on the -- on the surface which when we were there, there was nothing on the surface and another pocket beach a little farther down which was farther away from the salmon stream and really not part of our focus I could still find oil and there was not anywhere near the variety or size of things growing on the surface.

So it was anecdotally, you know, it -- it works -- it can work for these patches of oil and the thing with the oil that is remaining out there too it’s -- it strikes me, you know, they always talk about the expense of doing it, re-exposing the oil, etc., but you see regularly people are driven to bankruptcy over fuel tank contaminations at small mom and pop gas stations or at homes where they have a fuel tank that has leaked into the sediments.

You look at -- and then you -- you’ve seen these long houses next to gas stations big piles of gravel under tarps that they’ve had to dig up and they are having to buy or remediate. Well these people have had to rip up asphalt or pave or concrete and pull up these tanks, pull out all this gravel, clean it, put it all back, resurface the area and some people just -- and these businesses cannot make it --


DAVE JANKA: By doing that the gas stations don’t reopen. They are put into bankruptcy over -- over these things and yet -- and many of these gas stations are nowhere near a clean water source. They’re in the middle of a, you know, concrete and highway area that there is no clean water source anywhere around and yet they are required to do this.

And yet here out in Prince William Sound is this pristine -- near pristine area -- the richest company in the history of the world is allowed to leave these contaminated soils out there. It's -- something is not right with that one so -- so their excuse that oh, it’s too -- it’s too costly.

It is, you know, to remove all these rocks and then clean the soils and put the rocks back is -- is how would we do that and yet the government agencies require individual citizens to do that all the time and bankrupt them over it.

And yet they’re allowed to leave the Sound out there like that with 25,000 gallons of oil contaminating, like 15, 16 acres of beaches. I think that’s the estimate.

SHARON BUSHELL: Sounds like that’s the story.

DAVE JANKA: That’s about a half hour too, maybe.