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Bob Linville, Part 4

This is a continuation of the interview with Bob Linville on December 17, 2013 by Alicia Zorzetto at the public library in Seward, Alaska. Amanda Johnson operated the video camera. In this fourth part of a four part interview, Bob talks about the health problems that he developed as a result of working on the cleanup of the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, as well as the importance of the oil industry having good oil spill response plans and there being public oversight of their operations. This interview has been edited.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-26-14_PT.4

Project: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
Date of Interview: Dec 17, 2013
Narrator(s): Bob Linville
Interviewer(s): Alicia Zorzetto
Videographer: Amanda Johnson
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.

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


Connection between health problems and oil spill

Bone marrow transplant

Effect of health problems on family and fishing

Story about his son dealing with a bear at their setnet site

His sons learning how to run a setnet fishing operation

Importance of maintaining life in the ocean, and the oil industry having good oil spill response plans

Side effects from health problems and treatments

Oil spill settlement, and oil industry response capability

Oil industry maintenance issues and corruption

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.



BOB LINVILLE: And there was a 48 year old lady -- I was 50 I think then --

I was born -- I'm 52 --back East.

And she was a perfect match to me.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Okay. BOB LINVILLE: And she was on the registry.

So when people do the, you know, test they used to just draw blood, but now they do it with a swab.

And you get on the registry and then they -- you’ll find like 20 or 30 people that are close enough to where the swab matches and then they do a really expensive -- expansive series of tests to that person to find out how -- if you’re a perfect match or not.

And so that’s why searches are expensive because you run through this whole list of people that cost two or three thousand dollars each to find the one that’s a perfect one, if there is one. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Okay.

BOB LINVILLE: And so I went down there to get the bone marrow transplant. And I did that.

And you know, I’m telling you this story because I contribute all of this to the oil --


BOB LINVILLE: -- spill personally. It's a long story about bad health. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: You know, perfectly healthy individual at the time of the spill and I was exposed to Corexit and oil. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: Both of them extensively.

And this thing started up shortly within a month or two after the Corexit hit the beach, so --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: It's so hard cause it's one of those things that you have a better perspective looking at through a 20, 25 year --or 20 year --

BOB LINVILLE: You know, it wasn’t that long before I started myself --


BOB LINVILLE: -- blaming it on that.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right, right. BOB LINVILLE: Personally.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: But when you start really looking at what you’ve gone through, you don’t fully underst --

It would be hard to make a claim initially on something like this -- something that happened after --

BOB LINVILLE: You don’t have any idea of where you are.


BOB LINVILLE: This stuff happens down the road and in my case it wasn’t very far.

But I think some of these people like I heard here at the Sealife Center two or three other individuals got health problems. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

BOB LINVILLE: And I don’t even remember their stories, but they’re similar.

They didn’t come around right away.


BOB LINVILLE: And they -- a lot of them were sick during the work on the cleanup. They -- breathing that stuff made them sick. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right.

BOB LINVILLE: But they got over it for a while, you know.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: And comes back --

BOB LINVILLE: They didn’t realize how bad it was right off.


BOB LINVILLE: I know Riki's heard from a lot of these people. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: But it took me another couple years just really start getting over it. I mean I was lucky.

It's a bone marrow transplant kind of comes with the territory. You get this thing called graft-versus-host disease where they kill your immune system entirely.

And they do it with -- a lot of the same chemo they use for cancer, but in cancer they'll give it to you for a day, you know.

They'll give you a dose and then they'll wait three weeks and let your bone marrow kind of somewhat come back, and it kills all the fast growing cells in the body which cancer cells, hair cells, you know.


BOB LINVILLE: Your bone marrow and that sort of thing.

And for a bone marrow transplant they actually make you do it with a witness. They either make you do it in the hospital or they'll have you -- you can sign off with the witness that you did this.

They want to know you took all this chemo. And it's just oral. It's like -- but a half dozen of these and four or five of those, you know.

And you swallow all those every day for six days and then you do go in the hospital.

And they wait a day, and then they test you and if you got zero white count then pretty much a zero -- they're interested in killing the white cells is mainly what they’re interested in.

And so you're probably going to have zero all the way around because they killed all your stem cells, but they won’t do anything until they have the zero white count.

Until it checked out, and then they give you the stem cells which is just the -- a bag of stem cells. This lady, during that week I was doing the chemo, she was going through the process to donate.

Which now is kind of a -- they stick an IV in each arm and it just circulates right -- your peripheral stem cells it just comes out of the blood and circulates through a filter.

I mean, you need a bunch of drugs to make your body kick out those stem cells. And they’re uncomfortable, but before they took it all out of the back of your pelvis.

It was a general anesthesia and a lot of pain for a few weeks afterwards.

And I’m not sure what she did, but -- Then they just courier it across the country.

It has to be done on a timeframe --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Quickly. BOB LINVILLE: -- before you need it.

And I got it. It's just a bag of blood basically.

I've had -- had literally hundreds and hundreds of bags of blood by then.

I was getting transfused almost every day when I finally got this transplant.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Gosh. BOB LINVILLE: And so it's just another bag of blood.

And one thing is after that day of wait after the chemo, I remember waking up, I was in the hospital

and I went like that, and even with no stem cells I still had ankylosing spondylitis, you know, it wasn’t gone. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: It was still there. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: I just -- it was gone.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Wow. BOB LINVILLE: It left my immune system. It was gone.

I've never had a day of it ever since. It's really hard to get rid of that.


BOB LINVILLE: If you get a bone marrow transplant, you get rid of it.

I'm sure the blood I got has that antigen, too, but I just don’t have it. It's not affected me. And I -- I got over it pretty good.

I came out of that transplant and got my new bone marrow cell going in and it started to get strong and then you --

you can get this graft-versus-host right away when the new bone marrow recognizes the body and sees it, you know, it's not the same.

They can’t test -- they can’t make it perfect.


BOB LINVILLE: So it -- basically it's another form of autoimmune disease. It attacks this foreign entity, you know.

And you can either get it really bad right off or you can get it six months or so later. And you're better off if you get really bad right off or you can get both, you know, but that stuff that comes on later is --

it can be chronic and it can never stop and -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: And some people really go through a long -- basically the rest of their lives are a struggle.

And I didn’t get any of the initial stuff and after about six months I started to get it.

And I really had a bad go around with that. And so, you know, I still got a lot of kind of damage I got to deal with there. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: You know from that, but I --

What happens with the immune system is the, you know, the stem cells make the white cells and reds and platelets.

They decide what needs to be made and the white cells especially they go to the spleen and the vitals and they --

there's a month or two process here where they kind of fully develop and while they're doing that they kinda getting input from the body what type of cell it needs to feed. To do what. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: But -- And so when they're getting this input it says you need to attack like graft-versus-host does,

you know, it really has aspects -- your skin, your heart and lungs, you know, liver, joints, everything, you know, they're getting this input you got to attack these things.

That's graft-versus-host , but different than some, you know, organs, I mean, the blood cells they communicate back and forth.

And some people can kind of get over it.

Their body and their immune system communicate to the point where they don’t do that anymore. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: And I think it's a wonderful thing if it happens, and for me it's --

You take massive doses of Prednisone to, you know, to try to depress this immune system so it doesn’t -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: -- kill you first and then wait and see if it'll be over and mine did eventually, mostly.


BOB LINVILLE: But I came out of it in about 2007, something like that.

So it started in 1990 and I got to a stable point I'm at now in 2007, so it was like --

ALICIA ZORZETTO: That was a long way.

BOB LINVILLE: So 17, 18 years of which from 1998 to 2007 there was a 100 percent struggle for me 24 hours a day.

And I'm really lucky I even got through it. And I've had --

My kids grew up in this whole period of time, you know. In 2007, my daughter had been out of high school for four years and the son that was born during the oil spill was pretty much getting out of high school that year.

And it really affected what I did with my kids. And we did save the setnet site, but we had to give it up ourselves, my wife and I, after 2000 -- the year 2000 I didn’t even go.

That was when I was diagnosed with aplastic anemia so I never worked there again.

And my oldest son he was born in ’87 so he was 13 and we sent him out there with, you know, another old guy to be there and it was a bad year.

There were some other things that happened in the fishery that year, but there was nobody there after a couple weeks and so they were out there by themselves.

And the older guy he got a toothache and he went to town with the boat, you know.

He had the Coyote and went to town and Gus still had the setnet skiff, but there wasn’t any fishing happening. There were no tenders and most of the setnetters left, so there wasn’t going to be any fishing for a while.

And Gus was out there and all he had was a .22 and he started having bear problems, and so that was kind of exciting.

You know, we had cell phone service by that time with a bag phone, and we got these two messages here in town,

you know. One of them said -- we'd heard from him several times there was bears around. I was nervous as hell, but

I didn’t really know what to do. I kept thinking Dave, he's getting his tooth fixed, he’d go back, you know,

and that’s what I was hoping would happen.


BOB LINVILLE: Finally, we got these two messages. One of them said, the bear --

He said he’s right outside. I threw a seal bone at it, but he's right outside the door.

And this is like a setnet shack that we put up and lay down every year and it's just got a screen door for a door, that’s all it is. It's just this -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Oh my.

BOB LINVILLE: A bear could just go like that and just, you know.

It was just a black bear. And Gus is 13 years old and he's out there by himself.


BOB LINVILLE: So, and then he sent -- he had another message on there about three hours later and it said I made it to the skiff, but I’m in the middle of Main Bay and I can’t get the motor running, you know.

And oh, gosh, so I called Patty. She was at the library and I said, "Are you busy?" She said, "Oh, yeah, yeah, I’ve got so much going on, yeah."

I said, "You better come home right now and see these two messages." You know.

And she just panicked, you know.


BOB LINVILLE: I'd already called this guy out here at Bear Lake that we were lucky at the time was still on air service, you know, and he just said he was there and his plane was there.

So jumped in that and I went out with like an arsenal and landed in Main Bay and Gus had the skiff running by then and came over.

So we cruised in with our arsenal and headed to the beach and the bear you could just see it disappear and up into the forest.

He saw us coming and he wasn’t coming back.


BOB LINVILLE: But anyway Gus ran it that summer. He ran it the next summer.

And like he -- for the fishing part of it after that he was -- had another kid his age out there and they didn’t know what to do and they just had to figure it out.


BOB LINVILLE: And then he went on to go buy a drift permit and go drifting.

And so Bobby when he was 13, too, two years later, same deal.

They just had to figure it out. You know, it's a complicated -- that's all I can say. It's in one of the higher current locations you could have right at the mouth of Main Bay.

So every time, you know, you get a like an hour break during the slack water, high or low, and in between that it's just ripping. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Wow.

BOB LINVILLE: You've got a net there it's stopping the ocean and it just makes it difficult, you know, so there is like twelve anchors on the outer, you know, buoys.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Really. BOB LINVILLE: To hold this thing.

That's how we finally got it to where we could adjust it and we could hold it.

It wasn’t going anywhere. And then each -- it had to have tether anchor points on the end to hold it.


BOB LINVILLE: And Gus had never really, you know, paid much attention, you know.

Bobby either. You know, when I was fishing it earlier, they weren’t there in 1999 so the last time they fished it -- our family was in 1998.

I fished it in 1999 with two other people.

And so in 1998 Gus was 11, Bobby was 9, and they'd come out on skiff with me, but they didn't help put it together.


BOB LINVILLE: It wasn’t something they -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: They didn’t know --

BOB LINVILLE: -- were really involved with.

Anyway, it was a good thing for them, I think.

It's really hard because they'd be working all day and they -- we'd -- always before the family kinda used the shack, you know, cooking pies at dinner and warm and doing wash and, I mean, just the whole, you know, family was there and it was comfortable. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: A nice beach, you know.

And then when we were here in town, it was just them and their friends and the shack cold. There's no food, you know.


BOB LINVILLE: And they don’t know what they’re doing.

And I figured, you know, I admire them because it was -- it was a real challenge and they stayed -- they stuck it through the whole season.

And did the best, you know.

Eventually they did kind of learn how to run the thing.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Can I ask because you talked just -- talking about your sons right now and you mentioned they’re both fisherman now.


ALICIA ZORZETTO: And just thinking about everything you’ve gone through. Outside of just the toughness that you need to be --

BOB LINVILLE: I guess I bring that part of the story in because there's -- I think that’s a good thing that came out of this.


BOB LINVILLE: It was good for them and they wouldn’t have got it to that extent if I'd have been there.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: So what do you wish for them moving forward after --

After thinking about your life and the struggles you had after the oil spill, what do you wish for them as fishermen and you know --

BOB LINVILLE: Well, I wish for -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Moving --

BOB LINVILLE: I wish for an environment that supports life in the ocean. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: And I -- I really do think that we have an oil spill response now that's effective.

I give RCAC a lot of credit for that. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: Not to say that it's at zero risk of an incident, you know, I don’t think you could get that effective, but I think we're doing good now.

I don’t think it's been dismantled and what RCAC may be it would've been dismantled, I don’t know.

I know there'd been talk of it.

So I've -- on the oil spill front I would hope they'd never have to see that happen in Prince William Sound again.

We all fish in Prince William Sound.


BOB LINVILLE: On a worldwide scale, I think there's real threat, the ocean acidification.

And I think if we don’t change our ways then that's going to be a big part of their fishing careers.

And it's going to take a whole generation to realize it.

It's a very easily measured data point with the acid level of -- it's -- and you can see that the, you know, changes in the bottom of the food chain --

the copepods that have a shell. That they have to move around to avoid the worst of it.

And they're all affected.


BOB LINVILLE: I think if that environmentally we aren’t able to maintain the life we have in the ocean, it's going to affect everybody in the world.

A big deal to fishermen. It's going to be a big deal to everybody.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Well, do -- can you have to do -- Any -- anything else you’d like to say in here. Any other bits of information or --

BOB LINVILLE: Well, I would say that the health story. The only reason I brought it in is cause I believe that's my story from the Exxon spill.

Other than that you were very patient to listen to the whole thing.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: No, thank you.

BOB LINVILLE: You heard about thirty percent of it, you know, there's -- I had another --

There's just a whole lot that went on in those 17 years.


BOB LINVILLE: And I kind of touched on a few things.

One other condition I got from the first time they gave me Prednisone which was --

I did two other chemo type things before the bone marrow transplant that the insurance company would pay for. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: And all I got out of that is this thing called osteonecrosis, avascular necrosis of the hips where this is more common than aplastic anemia, I think.

Cause they give out Prednisone for so (inaudible), you know, and it has a certain percentage of people that are going to get this osteonecrosis from it which was -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: If you're going to take the risk of getting that you better have a good reason for it.


BOB LINVILLE: You know. It's just --

usually it starts in your hips, but the joints -- the circulation just shuts off, and they just start to rot.

And in my case it was both hips.


BOB LINVILLE: It can spread in some people throughout all their long bones and all their joints, you know, their shoulders, their knees or ankles.

And so for some people it's almost a life threatening thing.

But all they can do is the standard conventional treatments to cut the joint out and put an artificial joint in.


BOB LINVILLE: Which they had me scheduled to do in like 2002, you know, when I was -- my blood counts were essentially zero and I didn’t feel like I could survive it.

So I did this other 12 month experience down in Vancouver, Canada, where I could get affordable hypograph oxygen. I did that.

And I just throw this out there, because that's another really big part of it for me.

You know, I had to get my blood transfusions down there. I had to go across the border to get my -- both the blood transfusions and the iron removal drug. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Uh-huh.

BOB LINVILLE: And again I had to live in Canada because I was doing -- once or twice a day I was doing an hour in the oxygen tank which took like two or three hours to do that.

And manage all this just so I could try to not go on the table in Anchorage and get my hips cut out which I didn’t feel like with zero white cells and almost no red cells and platelets that I could survive.

And that’s, you know, that went on for three or four years and I think the bone marrow transplant helped with.

For some reason. I’m not sure what the mechanics of that is. It slowly faded away. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Huh.

BOB LINVILLE: After that. And not very many people get out of that either.

So I have to say I came out of it pretty good.

And the other thing I’d say is just the -- the reality of living with no stem cells and no platelets. You can -- platelet transfusions are hard to get, you know. You --

Somebody has to sit there for like three hours to give platelets.


BOB LINVILLE: And if they’re not matched to you well or you've been doing it for a while and your body's built up a resistance, it will kill them.

And so after a while they don’t work.

And then you’ve got this life threatening condition all the time where you bleed, and I was bleeding out of my nose all the time.

And it would -- really they'd be giving me blood and I’d be bleeding it out and having a nosebleed that won’t quite clot over weeks and months,

you know, the clots kind of start and they extend down your throat and I -- I mean I couldn’t sleep at night.

I’d be laying there just half clotted all down my throat and just swallowing -- trying to gag, you know, try not to just drown on it.

And this just went on for, you know, we’d do it in Seward as long as we could, like a day or two, and then somebody'd drive me to Anchorage.

And they’d give me platelets and blood and I’d be headed back to Seward hoping it'd stop and just no rhyme nor reason, you know, there's just no predicting what's going to happen.

It would stop sometimes, and I’d go a week or so without having it happen. And then it would just start, just for no reason.

And I mean, it's just an absolute nightmare what this is. And I had the hips rotting at the same time, my ankylosing spondylitis was still there.

It was just an absolute horrendous years’ long thing.


BOB LINVILLE: I attribute it to the oil spill.


And I won’t talk any more about it. I've talked too much already about it.

It's the biggest damage I got.

In the end, yeah, you know, we got our class action settlement.

I don’t think the settlement at all addressed either us, me physically for my health problems, or really any of the fishermen. All the herring seiners were just out of business permanently.

It was a huge, huge part of the fishing year, every year, and it did not get compensated.

I just finish it up by saying I think the oil industry they need to -- the compensation thing just isn’t going to work for people.

I don’t think anywhere ever. They're going to beat you in court however long it takes.


And I don’t think any -- like when it happened in the Gulf we were -- Patty and I were just shocked. They had no response capability. They had no -- just knowledge of what was to come.

They had no knowledge the inevitability of this with the oil industry and it happened with British Petroleum who -- their history is just so terrible, you know.

I mean, they've had the refinery blow up in Texas, you know, back in the 90’s. ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: It killed a huge number of people.

The aftermath of that they did the investigations. They weren’t doing their maintenance.

We had the Slope all those pipelines failed up there.

I got friends that worked up there regularly for, you know, 30 years.

And they're known as no maintenance.

They don’t do maintenance. They quit doing maintenance some time in the 90’s. They just quit.

And that all came out during the election when Sarah Palin was running against Tony Knowles.

And under Tony Knowles' administration they just basically coddled the oil industry so hard.

If you went up there as a -- as a oil spill -- oil law inspector and wrote a report that indicated they weren’t -- they were doing maintenance which it was obvious they weren’t and they tried to fire you.


BOB LINVILLE: And we sold our setnet operation to a lady who actually had that happen.

She's a petroleum engineer and she's nobody to be reckoned with.

And she went on the radio and had a little go around with the lady who was Tony Knowles’ commissioner at the time.

They're just -- it's hard to argue, but they just -- they weren’t doing the maintenance. Anybody who did write a form like she did got fired, and she did. And she knows what’s going on.

She's still an active petroleum engineer at the state.

Anyway, that's how the oil industry works. They didn’t do the maintenance. Finally the pipeline -- after all the other troubles they had -- they had all these leaks.

The biggest one since the oil spill. On the tundra on the North Slope and they, I think, maybe are doing it different now. I don’t know. I don’t trust them.

Then they had the -- they had the scandal where they were manipulating the market somehow. I don’t even understand it.

They were manipulating things illegally for their profit, and that came out.

Then you had the Gulf oil spill which cost them -- this oil spill supposedly cost them four or five billion dollars up here in Alaska and that one supposedly cost them twenty or thirty billion or more.

And all these things. The one on the Slope, the -- some refinery blew up. They’re all financially disastrous to them and as long as -- as well as all the other legal and, you know, moral failures that they reveal.


BOB LINVILLE: They’re financially disastrous. The maintenance is so much cheaper for them to do.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. BOB LINVILLE: Then to suffer this series of disasters that I’m not sure is over yet.

Why would we think it's over, you know?


BOB LINVILLE: Have they really changed? I mean I don’t think -- all oil companies are kind of operate similarly.

I think they're the most obvious, you know, problem.

I don’t think they have changed. I think the Gulf oil spill just about -- it seriously impacted the company. Their stock plunged. They had to sell a whole bunch of assets to keep up with it.

And they're now drilling in the deep ocean again, and back kind of where they were.


BOB LINVILLE: I just have to wonder why don’t they just charge us for the oil. We’re paying for it, you know,

the extra dime or fifty cents or whatever it is a barrel it takes to maintain the maintenance, maintain the cleanup response.

It’s cheap. It’s good business for them. Why do they have to do it this way?

ALICIA ZORZETTO: I think -- to me -- and not to answer this question, but it seems like something like an RC --

like it will never really do that, I don’t think, unless they're forced to. So having something like a citizens’ council.

BOB LINVILLE: They're just -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: To balance.

BOB LINVILLE: Yeah, exactly.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: You know. It’s maybe -- maybe --

BOB LINVILLE: Their side of things is -- it's to cut expenses.


BOB LINVILLE: You get promoted if you cut expenses and that absolutely clashes with doing your maintenance and creating a response that isn’t used hardly.

If you do your maintenance, do everything right, it might never be used.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Right. BOB LINVILLE: They can cut expenses on both sides of that.

And if it wasn’t for an outside independent organization that -- ALICIA ZORZETTO: Yeah.

BOB LINVILLE: -- whole function is to make sure that doesn’t happen.


BOB LINVILLE: And then all you have left is the oil spill and the oil companies themselves controlling.



BOB LINVILLE: At the expense of maintenance.


BOB LINVILLE: Well, keep it up.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: Thanks. We’ll do our best.

BOB LINVILLE: I’m sorry I went on so long.

ALICIA ZORZETTO: No, no, this is wonderful. So, we'll wrap it up.