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The Alaska Pipeline
You Do It: Safety

H-shaped piling known as a VSM, Vertical Support Members If any aspect of the pipeline system fails, oil spills can damage the Alaskan ecosystem. Engineers designed it to cross varied terrain as safely as possible, to avoid disasters.

Still, over a dozen major accidents have happened since the pipeline opened in 1977. The biggest was in 1989, when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground near the pipeline terminal in Valdez, spilling over 11 million gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound. The spill killed or endangered millions of animals, including salmon and other fish, bald eagles and other birds, sea otters, harbor seals, and whales. It also threatened Alaska's commercial fishing industry.

More recently, in March 2006, a feeder pipeline at Prudhoe Bay leaked, spilling more than 250,000 gallons of oil at a place where the elevated pipeline descends to ground level for a caribou crossing.

Survey the Alaska landscape and make appropriate and safe construction choices.

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