The Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 was among the largest of its kind in U.S. history, resulting when an oil tanker struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Around 10.8 million pounds of oil leaked as a result – devastating the environment and wildlife. Since, however, new regulations have been enacted to minimize the possibility of such an incident from occurring again.

Today, through its official website, the state of Alaska maintains prevention and preparedness response guidelines in regards to oil spills. Particularly, the website discusses how to carry out cleanup efforts near or on tundra – land that tends to have a frozen subsoil. If cleanup efforts are carried out carelessly in such areas, negative consequences can include:

  • Damage to organic soils
  • Damage to vegetation
  • Damage to drainage patterns

One of the solutions recommended includes the use of rig mats – allowing cleanup crews to use them as boardwalks in order to transport both light and heavy cleanup equipment to the site in question. In fact, the State of Alaska shows the typical cleanup layout plan as such (

In addition to the utilization of mats, other ideas the state recommends include:

  • Using existing roads when possible
  • Using snow ramps
  • Using snowshoes

Timber and rig mats can play a critical role in helping clean up the environment after oil spills and other incidents. For more information on avoiding damage to tundra, visit Alaska’s Division of Spill Prevention and Response webpage.