Digital Asset Information
Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Date of Interview: Dec 19, 2013
Narrator(s): Joe Banta
Interviewer(s): Alicia Zorzetto
Videographer: Amanda Johnson
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
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Role of Stan Stephens
Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council's work on the science of the spill
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JOE BANTA: Element. And spoke calmly yet truthfully. He didn’t pull any punches. He spoke the truth. And he was honest and he kept his word too I think, so I mean you can put those things together in a combination that’s a great leader.
And -- and he didn’t want talk all the time or dominate the conversation. He wanted to hear too so you add that in and that’s a tough combination to beat.
And so he would -- he would earn his respect through the way he acted in all of those different fashions and because of that and his work effort which I’m -- he did such a (inaudible) job.
He was just working. He would work in (inaudible) -- he wasn’t just involved in RCAC. He was involved in marine transportation committees and tourism groups.
And other things and so he just really, really put his shoulder to things and worked. With regard to RCAC in its formative years he -- he was one of the great leaders.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh. Is there anything else that you’d like to add to this, you know, maybe you’ve got a very large spectrum now because we are going 25 years, is there anything that, you know, that points out to you that you haven’t talked about or --
JOE BANTA: I think so. I think maybe there is one more thing and it’s my work with the council. I’ve worked in kind of two areas for the past 24 plus years and one is in oil spill prevention and response dealing with the contingency plans and fishing vessel response and shore response that kind of an effort and I spoke on that a fair amount already.
But the other area I've worked in the past several years has been with the environmental monitoring program. And one of the things that we do I touched on is we try to do good science and we try to identify gaps in the science.
We can say well, you know, here’s a gap that’s known about layering in the waters of Prince William Sound. There can be freshwater lensing and if you want to use oil spill dispersants to spread and dilute oil, maybe that’s not a good idea when there's all this layering because the -- the sad ole saw about the solution to pollution being dilution is the basis for the use of dispersants.
And with this freshwater lensing, you can’t get that spreading. It’s the oil essentially stuck in the first few feet or meters and so we’ve done research there. We saw a gap.
We wanted to quantify the layering more. So we -- we did research there.
We look at the toxicity and the impacts of dispersed hydrocarbons on organisms and they said well a lot of the research is funded by industry and it is kind of in their interests so we wanted to provide a -- a stronger peer review tests of that and we didn’t just want to see it on some little lab creature.
We wanted to see it on our own organisms. So we worked with (inaudible) Bay Lab and have done that for salmon and herring and with Canada on salmon, herring and cod. So we have tried to make a difference in the science by looking at better -- how to improves science.
Make it better. Make the information more valid with the peer review process and trying to not just do it willy-nilly, but fill in the gaps where things are missing. And generally whenever we identify subjects we do a gap analysis.
We -- we look at what’s out there and then we work from there. So a lot of the environmental monitoring program has not just done the environmental monitoring to essentially look for presence of oil or measure how the hydrocarbons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill are going down, but we've looked at these other areas because they’re relevant.
If a future spill happens and they want to use dispersants, the responders -- the people who are going to authorize it need to know.
Realistically how is this going to impact our area, our ecosystem, our organisms, our marine resources that we depend on for our livelihoods and for, you know, our backyard refrigerator if you will.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. That's -- I think that’s a good point when you say, you know, how our ecosystem is going to work like within the Prince William Sound cause when I first joined actually the -- some of the articles that you showed me that came through the scientific advisory committee and your projects were concerning -- concerning herring temperatures which is essentially like the embryonic period of a fish.
So what is the water -- what’s the temperature from the water during that period and they found that colder waters -- I mean you can explain it probably better than I can, but colder waters lead to longer, you know, time in the embryonic stage which makes them more susceptible to oil than let’s say a fish that might be in warmer water.
JOE BANTA: Sure and there’s a lot of --
ALICIA ZORZETTO: A lot of other things too, but just an example of how, you know, a study that's done in Europe could or could not be applicable in the Prince William Sound or a study that is done in Mexico might not really work.
Here it's really important to do region specific research when it comes to the use of dispersants.
JOE BANTA: For sure. For sure and that’s -- your example of -- of the temperature issue for reliable growth is -- is a great example because here we are we're in the colder water area. So we’re going to have that and it is very logical that okay colder water things don’t grow as fast so they are going to have an extended larval period.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.
JOE BANTA: So if they’re exposed longer in this sensitive life stage, there’s going to be more of an impact.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.
JOE BANTA: So, yeah, perfect sense and that’s why we need to go to these, you know, local organisms for testing to see what the impacts are for us and our ecosystem.
And that’s been a -- a large part of our work.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah. Boy, it is really interesting. I thought that was really useful information for someone that didn’t -- never would have thought cause normally you just read articles about, you know, if you read an article on dispersants and it's published by a major journal and you think it's just applicable everywhere and you don’t realize that maybe it’s not.
JOE BANTA: Or not as well as it could be --
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. JOE BANTA: For sure, yeah.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: So. (inaudible) Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
JOE BANTA: I think we’re good. Okay.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Awesome.
JOE BANTA: Okay. I’m sure I could talk stories forever.
ALICIA ZORZETTO: Well off the record stories too, right. Thanks.