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Opening title slate: The Eleventh Hour #309, Exxon III. Rec: 1/10/90. Dire: Andrew Wilk
Man getting out of car stepping into ankle deep water. Workmen in hardhats working at open manhole. Narration by Host Robert Lipsyte about broken pipe.
Aerial large body of water, oil spill is seen
Huge boulders of broken concrete, rope tied to large piece of concrete lifting it up as Lipsyte narrates about tonight's story , "A crumbling infrastructure"
Funding for the program by announcer, charitable organization listed over show graphic in bkgd.
Host Robert Lipsyte sitting in front of four small tv screens, welcomes viewers and introduces himself. He announces the topic of tonight's program, our aging stressed infrastructure and the ruptured pipeline that caused an Exxon oil spill in Arthur Kill (Staten Island and New Jersey)
A lone tugboat sitting in the waters of the Arthur Kill between New Jersey and Staten Island, dreary day
Remnants of the results of the Exxon pipeline failure and oil spill along the shoreline of New Jersey and Staten Island. Lipsyte narrates, it's been called the worst spill in the area, ever - 500,000 gallons of oil leaked out. 200 birds in nearby sanctuary, dead.
Exxon Oil Refinery
Large cargo ship docked in New York
Large sign in harbor in big letters reads: SLOW NO WAKE.
Skimmer boat moving slowly into the harbor, side of boat reads: Clean Harbor
Mr. Edward Wirtkowski from Clean Harbors, inc. talking outdoors with unseen interviewer giving details of how they are ready in New York Harbor to move through the harbor in the event of another oil spill.
Clean Harbors skimmer moving along through New York Harbor, passing large oil tanks and the large red cargo ship.
Back in the studio with Host Robert Lipsyte , he states dock workers do not agree with Wirtkowski and cuts to a pre recorded interview he had with two dockworkers in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
Host Lipsyte in New Jersey speaking with two oil company dockworkers who disagree about how quick they can get to a spill. Due to cutbacks they never see the Coast Guard anymore. .
Host Lipsyte back in the studio introduces his guests, one of the two dockworkers and union officials working on the Jersey docks: Bob Beck with Hess Oil; Bob Halladay with GHEX and Bill Golden with Shell.
Lipsyte welcomes guests.
INTERVIEW, BECK, HALLADAY AMD GOLDEN:
Robert Lipsyte 5:35
Welcome. Well, you told us about this last year that was going to happen. Now in their in their press conference yesterday, Exxon basically said that they had a system in place, which doesn't always work, right. But this time it was working right. But they didn't pay attention to. Do you buy that story?
Bob Beck 5:51
No, because there are several safeguards. If that alarm went off, they had the option of then calling the point that the oil was being transferred to Bayonne. I understand and checking if that tank was receiving a product, which they didn't do for several hours that appears
Robert Lipsyte 6:06
Bob Beck 6:08
God only knows that's got to be a management decision.
Robert Lipsyte 6:11
Now we're, you know, we were dumping on Exxon's dumping, but and none of you work for Exxon, which makes it a little easier. But is is this system, you're a GTX. Bob, is this system throughout the the oil industry.
Bob Halladay 6:28
I don't know what you mean, the safeguards we have. Yeah, high level alarms, we have the lines are tested periodically to make sure that they withstand the pressure that you have pumping and all that's why we don't understand what happened in this case.
Robert Lipsyte 6:41
Well could this have happened to GA TX?
Bob Halladay 6:45
Maybe I'm not sure. You know, we do check the lines periodically.
Robert Lipsyte 6:49
What about at shell,
Bill Golden 6:50
we have? I guess a similar system. I don't know exactly the system to have an Exxon but we do have high, high, low, high and low level alarm systems that they have put in and I guess in the last three or four years, the system hasn't been foolproof. They've had I know had some problems of malfunctioning but the company has been trying to get that malfunctions corrected. However, it still has not been perfect, perfected where you can 100% Really 100% rely on it.
Robert Lipsyte 7:24
Well, that's because we're moving into higher technology, which isn't perfect yet. Is that the case?
Bob Beck 7:30
No. I think you got to get back to basics. Before the alarms and such the gauges would go up and periodically check the movement from the receiving tank to the shipping thing. I mean, you have gauges on both ends. But if you're taking 10,000 barrels from one tank, and you get an alarm and the other tank has only gotten 5000 you notice 5000 Missing Where did it go? The pipeline can't contain it. So you know you've got to spill somewhere.
Robert Lipsyte 7:54
So then they should have known. Now they had to know it was only yesterday that we learned that it was more than 500,000 gallons, the early reports with 200,000. Why would it be such a discrepancy?
Bob Beck 8:08
Well, they don't want to admit to the amount of oil no doubt, there's no doubt. And the longer you delay, the oil goes away, it costs less to clean it up the less there is the less it cost to clean up. Simple as that.
Robert Lipsyte 8:21
The oil is now where?
Bob Beck 8:23
It's all over the harbor. I mean you the bulls will contain a majority of it, but you'd have a certain percentage do the tides and the wind conditions some is gonna escape.
Robert Lipsyte 8:33
Can we expect this to happen again?
Bob Beck 8:35
Unfortunately, I probably I said before I don't like to be right you know and I was from the prior occasion and it's it's not nice to be right in situations like that.
Robert Lipsyte 8:48
Yeah, now the oil the 500,000 that Exxon leaked this time is heating oil. How is that different from the oil from the Exxon Valdez in Alaska?
Bob Halladay 8:59
I would imagine it's lighter.
Robert Lipsyte 9:01
And what does that mean as far as clean up more effect
Bob Halladay 9:06
it's harder to gather up I imagine it dissipates faster it takes off faster doesn't lay around as as long
Robert Lipsyte 9:13
So it will be harder for the booms to collect what what kind of effect do you think it'll have out there as it as it goes through our waterways
Bill Golden 9:21
it's going to be a very dramatic effect on our waterways and especially our wildlife and our environment in the the the boating industry and your your townships and your dock and everything else so there's gonna be very severely affected by this kind of disaster that's happened here and unfortunately, as Bob had said, that something like this is probably going to happen again. And one of the biggest problems I foresee is what's happening is a lot of the oil companies have cut back on their maintenance program in the in the plants by in house maintenance and relying a lot on outside contractors to do their maintenance. In the plants now, in house as we had many years ago, when we started, we had a lot of big contingency of mechanics in house would be able to do preventive maintenance, they were there, they knew the equipment, they knew they checked more, or they can detect things before they happen. With the attrition going through and getting rid of in house mechanics rely on outside contractors, you no longer have that preventive maintenance program like you had before that prevented a lot is not to say that these things didn't happen before even even at that time, but not at the the multitude of it's happening today.
Robert Lipsyte 10:34
Bob, last year, you said that, you know, when there are less cops, there's you had more and more speeding. Well, now that we've we've had this to think there'll be more cops?
Bob Beck 10:42
Well, we voiced our concern to the Coast Guard in September, we had a special meeting that we asked them to attend for as your concerns about what's going on. And we said something's gonna happen. And he said, Well, basically, you know, they're going to try to get around more, that they've been cut back and they're not always going to be able to respond because of their lack of personnel. You know, and as far as we can go, we can't tell the companies what to do.
Robert Lipsyte 11:06
So you don't really see any improvement right now.
Bob Beck 11:10
Not really know. One thing I didn't interject last time that I should have in this harbor is a two year strike going on with with the tugboats and barges. You've got people on these barges. Now they burn in what they call replacement workers. We call them scabs from Louisiana and down south some of these guys are functionally illiterate. They cannot read nor write our gauges have to do their charts for them the board's charts that shows the amounts in a tank, there's been a lot of incidences because of it is matter of fact, I believe last year, Exxon lost a whole dock because one of the barges went through it. So that's another problem. That's another problem. And it's simply companies cutting money. They're not saying they're not making money. They're just they just want to make more of it.
Robert Lipsyte 11:51
That's a problem. Bob Beck, Bill Golden Bob Halladay thanks so much for being with us.
Lipsyte thanks guests and introduces next segment with reporter Robert Hennaly from the Hudson Dispatch about Exxon's corporate responsibility and control of information
POV from back of moving vehicle. Reporter Robert Hennelly driving car and narrating.
Squinting eyes in rear view mirror of vehicle.
Hand hitting push buttons on car radio.
Hennelly in office of Hudson Dispatch, sitting at table with lots of papers and newspapers including the Village Voice as he narrates about the Exxon oil spill in Alaska.
Alaska coast line along the Prince William Sound, low green mountains, evergreens - Hennelly narrating comparing the spill in Alaska to what happened in New Jersey.
worker carrying dead bird and sea animal covered in oil out of water.
Wide shot the Prince William Sound, some people can be seen in the distance.
pan dark rocky dirty looking terrain, remnants of the Exxon oil spill.
Robert Hennelly reporting from his office at the Hudson Dispatch and talking about how even though Exxon is the largest oil company in the world we may never know what happened in Arthur Kill. He cuts away to some newspaper headlines.
Newspaper articles about the oil leak in the Staten Island, New Jersey area. headlines read: "Oil Workers to meet groups probing spill"; Bayonne takes an oil bath"; "Oil Menace Shuts Kill"; "Part of Kill is reopened to shipping"; "Entire Arthur Kill reopened";
Hennelly reports that even with all the media coverage we may never know what really happened or how large it was.
Map of Arthur Kill navigational channel area showing New Jersey (Bayway Linden) and Staten Island. Thick redline shows the pipeline going across the Kill
Shot from behind bearded man, hands on keyboard of early '90's computer. Computer screen sitting on top of large hard drive.
Hands typing on circa late 80's computer keyboard
A dark bearded Hennelly looking at camera reporting faulty alarms and no straight answers.
Wide shot oil tanks from refinery at a distance in New York Harbor, large oil tanker, Verrazano Bridge in bkgd.
The Clean Harbor Skimmer Boat
Seagull flying over coastal area.
A hawk sitting atop a tall dead branch of a treetop
A heron standing along the coastline.
Back in the studio Lipsyte unseen introduces new guest, Lt. Commander Paul Milligan of the Coast Guard Public Affairs Office.
Host Lipsyte seen sitting with Milligan welcomes him.
Robert Lipsyte 15:00
we've heard RobertHanalei, the journalist and before that Bob Beck the dockworker both basically asked the same question, Where was the Coast Guard?
Paul Milligan 15:07
Well, Coast Guard was on scene immediately upon a report being received, we got called into the spill at about 3:07. Last Tuesday morning, the response team that is a 24 hour team went out on scene and systematically went through the various types of things that they would do to try and identify the source of the spill. And that's basically if you go,
Robert Lipsyte 15:31
but you didn't find it.
Paul Milligan 15:33
Robert Lipsyte 15:34
you're looking at vessels and you're looking at other things. Let me ask you this, that the two things that I wondered about was one, the Coast Guard initially said it was 200,000 gallons in the spill. It wasn't until yesterday that Exxon said it was over 500,000. Why was this such a disparity?
Paul Milligan 15:52
Well, initially, we didn't know how much the spill was and the estimates by Coast Guard personnel, we knew at the time that we had a large spill going on, to what quantity we did not know at the time,
Robert Lipsyte 16:04
what does that mean that the journalist was right in the sense, he used that that metaphor of asking the drug dealer to where his own stash? Is the Coast Guard dependent upon the oil company to know the extent of the spill?
Paul Milligan 16:18
I don't think they're dependent only on that, of course, there are records kept in the position that we were in. At that time, we already had oil in the environment. And the concern was, let's clean up to it. Let's contain it, let's clean it up. And it doesn't matter at this point, whether we're talking 200,000 gallons or 500,000 gallons, is it is it turned out to be
Robert Lipsyte 16:40
What about the regulation of the pipe itself? And of the alarm system? Isn't that something that the Coast Guard is supposed to inspect on a regular basis?
Paul Milligan 16:47
I don't believe the Coast Guard has inspection of the pipeline itself. That is the Department of Transportation responsibility, but not specifically the Coast Guard, we do have responsibility for the marine environment. And that's why we're involved to the extent we are right now.
Robert Lipsyte 17:01
Do you have enough men and ships to do what you need to do out there?
Paul Milligan 17:04
Obviously, we always welcome the opportunity for more personnel as well as more money in any coastguard activity. In this particular case. The captain, the port, who is the responding portion of the Coast Guard, has not been cut back in the 1980s. With the other cutbacks that have occurred, and additional men at this point, I don't think would have made the difference in minimizing the damage to the environment. It had already occurred in the area that we're concentrating our cleanup efforts on
Robert Lipsyte 17:34
So the Coast Guard has had is has no complicity in this. I mean, if we were looking for somebody to blame, it's not the Coast Guard.
Paul Milligan 17:42
Well, we're the one of the regulatory agencies. So as far as do you put the blame on the Coast Guard? I would have to say no, at this point.
Robert Lipsyte 17:50
Well, I'm thinking about Bob Beck saying that when there aren't cops around people speed and the feeling of people on the dock is because at the Coast Guard is not as much of a presence as they should be. That oil is slipping into the water.
Paul Milligan 18:03
Okay, there. It's the issue itself is more complex than just the Coast Guard. There are other regulatory agencies and of course, there are some legislation that does not exist to cover you know, certain types of spills are our main concern in the the majority of spills that are going to occur occur from the the shipment of oil across the waterways. pipeline spills, in fact, are very few and far between. There has not been a pipeline spill of this type in the New York Harbor, at least in recent history.
Robert Lipsyte 18:34
Now, we couldn't get an Exxon spokesperson to come on the program. Are you satisfied with everything that they've done? And with their press conference yesterday,
Paul Milligan 18:43
With specific regard to the cleanup effort? Yes, the Coast Guard is currently satisfied with the response of Exxon. Initially, no, we were not. When I say we are satisfied at this point. Exxon has put forth a significant effort in not only personnel but also equipment that has gone out there. We have gone out there on a daily basis since the the first notification of spill and monitor the area along with the environmental people from both states, New Jersey in New York and the city of New York. And what we have done is take a look survey the situation identified those areas that are are the primary areas that need to be concentrated on first and then stepped it down in a a fashion like that.
Robert Lipsyte 19:26
Commander Milligan thanks so very much for being with us.
Interview concludes, Lipsyte thanks Milligan.
Host Robert Lipsyte announces next segment of tonight's program, the water main breaks in the West Village and Chelsea areas of Manhattan.
Map depicting water main breaks and infrastructure breaks/blasts in the west side, upper east side, midtown and Greenwich Village areas of New York City in 1989 and 1990. Lipsyte narrating.
Host Lipsyte in the studio talking about the vulnerability of the Manhattan infrastructure. He cuts to a segment from the PBS documentary series, Nova
Clip from PBS' Nova about the infrastructure of the water main pipelines underneath Manhattan with interview with Joe Conway, Director of the Bureau of Water Supply.
Host Lipsyte introduces his first guest, Martin Lange, Commissioner of Water Resources, Sanitation and Parks and Recreation in New York City for over 40 years.
INTERVIEW, MARTIN LANGE:
Robert Lipsyte 22:14
Martin Lang was commissioner of water resources of sanitation. And our parks and recreation is now a chemical and civil engineering consultant. Welcome, Mr. Lang. Why is all this happening now?
Martin Lang 22:28
Let me interject a little mild demurrer. The emphasis you use on the word now you're seeing a recurring continuing phenomenon. 20 years ago, we still averaging about one main break a day in the city. What you're seeing is the end product of a cumulative effect. Many years ago, I kept pleading with the Bureau of the Budget in the city to put more resources into the maintenance of our vulnerable infrastructure. I pointed out that delay in taking care of this, the effects were concealed. Otherwise, this was a insidious phenomenon because it was out of sight. And it was cumulative. Because at some points we get past the point of no return. It was easy to defer something like that. Maybe I can illustrate this by a little anecdote which bear with me. I was obsessed with the maintenance of some 20,000 Key valves on over 5000 miles of water mains in the city. But I said to me that you that in case of any emergency, you could get to them, find them find them operable and shut them down quickly. I found that in previous administrations and some economy moved aid eliminated the maintenance the valve gangs, I remember had to go directly to the mayor himself over the budget directed over the deputy mayor to get a valve gang restored to the city. Because it was the sort of thing that was not didn't impinge on a public consciousness. Remember the way that's info it's below it's out of sight. Then there's another phenomenon. The public attention and political attention is directed toward those things which are highly visible. Political figures cut ribbons on new capital construction, there's little grammar or jazz and the maintenance of some obscure valves or pipes on the ground. And incidently We talk about infrastructure. We keep this in mind, New York City itself, some seven and a half million people penned up and 300 square miles fits the classic definition of a vulnerable ecosystem. It has these very fragile life support systems underneath them, not just the water mains, there are sewers, or interceptor sewers. The
Robert Lipsyte 24:43
And we're so much more aware of it now. And we're scared because we see what's happening in terms of accumulation. That's the aging process. And the fact is all these years of pounding and stress, I wish we had listened to you. What if we're going to listen to you Now, what should we be doing?
Martin Lang 25:02
Well, I can't answer that and the 30 sound bite, because it's a complex, but I will be completely responsive to you. In other words, there's no quick handy dandy panacea that's going to solve this done in several ways. One. Again, a few years ago, the there was an Environmental Conference, three days convened by New York State Legislative Committee in New York City. The mayor was there, the governor was there, they all spoke about what they were going to build. Remember, when that publication came out American ruins, people can see them an epileptic, apocalyptic vision of a disintegrating city, the Cuyahoga River was on fire, the bridges were falling, and so on.
Robert Lipsyte 25:44
But we have seen that I mean, steam pipe explosion, people have been dying.
Martin Lang 25:48
But fortunately, I've been the toilet still flushes the water still flows. But there was a hard kernel of truth in that. And here's the kernel of truth, the bulk of our infrastructure and the urban America, and we're increasingly an urban society. So let's talk about urban infrastructure was built between the 1890s and the late 1920s. The country was the ferment of growth and development and expansion. Now organizations can grow and flourish and then decay, they can live for a while, and the memory of the outward facade of past glories. And then so we begin mining out what's already in the ground. It's not unique to New York City. Con Edison became a laughingstock a generation ago, because of so many failures, the telephone company the same way that they put up their socks, they started a long program, and over a decade or so they restored themselves. So the way
Robert Lipsyte 26:39
So what you're really saying is, there is no infra fix, and that these, these groups really are going to have to spend a lot of money over a long period of time.
Martin Lang 26:47
Again, you use that key word infra fix the moment the public consciousness was raised, about the vulnerability of our infrastructure, then everybody got taught how many trillions we're going to split that flex of action.
Robert Lipsyte 27:01
That's why we're talking now/ Mr. Langer. Thanks very, very much for being with us.
Interview concludes, Lipsyte thanks Mr. Lange.
Host Lipsyte encourages viewers to write in their opinions on tonight's topic or any subject.
Business envelope with "Talkback" address.
Lipsyte announces the Eleventh Hour and introduces himself. Show end.
Credits over show graphics.
Funding for the program from charitable organizations by announcer and overlay The Eleventh Hour graphic.
Description: The Eleventh Hour - Show #309 Original Broadcast Date: 1-10-90 Title: Exxon III (Underwater Pipeline Rupture causing huge oil spill in Arthur Kill and Our Aging Infrastructure) Guests: Bob Beck - Oil, Chemical & Atomic Workers Union; Bob Halladay - Oil Chemical & Atomic Workers Union; Bill Golden - Oil,Chemical and Atomic Workers Union; Robert Hennelly, Reporter the Hudson Dispatch; Lt. Commander Paul Milligan, Coast Guard Public Affairs; Martin Lange, Engineering Consultant NYC.
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