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Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez cover image

Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez 2008

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Paul Carvalho and Robert Cornellier
Directed by Robert Cornellier
DVD, color, 99 min. and 52 min. versions on one disc



Sr. High - Adult
Environmental Studies

Date Entered: 06/17/2010

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

In light of the most recent calamity, the BP spill off the Gulf of Mexico, this film is both chilling and alarming. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in a reef it should never have been near, 5 miles away from where it was supposed to be. The captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was known by company officials and the crew to have a drinking problem. Interviews with townspeople who lived through this disaster and continue to live in Cordoba talk about Exxon’s lack of preparedness for dealing with such a calamity and the devastating impact this has had on their community, their livelihoods, and environment. The estimate was somewhere between 11 million and 38 million gallons of oil spilled; four days after the spill a storm carried oil 1200 miles away from Prince William Sound and half of it stayed in the sound. In some places it was three feet thick. Exxon paid people to wipe the rocks one at a time, only to have them covered in oil the next day. Exxon had no real plan to clean up the water or the shores. At the peak of this crisis, 11,000 workers were hired to clean up the oil spill. The Exxon cleanup resulted in 3% of the oil being removed, while the rest stayed on the beaches. Eighteen years after this disaster, there is still oil present in Prince William Sound. The townspeople attest that Exxon officials lied to them. They promised to make them whole again. Instead, they lied to the people, according to those who were interviewed for this documentary. 32,000 plaintiffs were affected by the spill and they had to go to court to try and make Exxon pay for the damages to their community. Five years after the spill and after four weeks of deliberation, Exxon was ordered to pay $5 billion dollars in damages. This was the second largest jury verdict and largest punitive damages ever awarded. Exxon felt it was unjust and vowed to do everything to overturn the verdict. After numerous appeals, the punitive damages were reduced to $4 billion, increased to $4.5 billion, and again reduced to $2.5 billion, and finally down to $507.5 million in 2008, plus $470 million in interest. This was a bitter blow and disappointment to the townspeople. This is equal to about 4 days of profits for Exxon. 15 of 24 injured species have not recovered, herring being one of them. The fishery remains closed, which costs Cordova $100 million a year in lost earnings. The local people have lost faith in the government, corporations, justice and the court systems.

Audio and video quality is very good. Captions are used to provide specific detailed information and facts. A poignant soundtrack accompanies the film. This film would be useful for discussion in high school and college classrooms.