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BP blamed for toxification

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment


Fishermen, cleanup workers and residents of Gulf Coast believe they are being sickened by toxic chemicals from BP spill.
Al-Jazeera

Dahr Jamail


Increasing numbers of people across the Gulf Coast, like fisherman James “Catfish” Miller in Mississippi, are reporting symptoms that doctors and toxicologists are linking to chemicals from the BP oil disaster. [Photo: Erika Blumenfeld]

James Miller, a commercial shrimper, lifelong fisherman in Mississippi and former BP oil response worker, is horribly sick.

“I’ve been vomiting, my head feels like it’s going to explode, diarrhoea, and I keep passing out,” Miller, who worked in BP’s so-called Vessels of Opportunity (VOO) oil response programme, said from his bed at Biloxi Regional Hospital on November 5.

Four days earlier, Miller, his wife and dog were boating on the Gulf of Mexico near one of Mississippi’s barrier islands when all three of them fell ill.

“My wife and I felt the chemicals immediately and my dog even started hacking like he was trying to cough up a bone,” Miller explained.

Later that day he began vomiting and experiencing a severe headache and diarrhoea. Then on November 4 he passed out in the shower. Concerned by his uncontrollable nausea and bleeding in his esophagus, his wife took him to the emergency room.

“The doctor just told me I have acid reflux,” Miller, who has been experiencing many of his symptoms since joining the VOO programme, said. “They don’t even know what this is. I told him I needed to be tested for toxic chemicals. I’m in a major hospital and they are telling me they don’t know what this is.”

Miller’s friend, Chris Balius, also a former VOO worker, was in a boat near Miller’s on that same day out on the Gulf.

“I was hit by it too,” Balius explained. “Headache, nausea, diarrhoea, and now my eyesight is failing. When I was in the VOO programme, I had to let someone else run my boat after 30 days because I got so sick. Every time I go on the water I get sick, so I no longer go, and don’t allow my family to go anymore.”

Joseph Yerkes, who lives on Okaloosa Island, Florida, was in BP’s VOO programme for more than two months, during which time he was exposed to oil and dispersants on a regular basis.

“I worsened progressively,” Yerkes said. “Mid-September I caught a cold that worsened until I went to a doctor, who gave me two rounds of antibiotics for the pneumonia-like symptoms, and he did blood tests and found high levels of toxic substances in my blood that he told me came from the oil and dispersants.”

Increasing numbers of people across the Gulf Coast are suffering from symptoms that doctors and toxicologists are linking to chemicals from the BP oil disaster that began last summer when the blowout of the Macondo well gushed at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.

BP responded by using at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersant to sink the oil.

Read the full article and see more photos on Al-Jazeera English.

 


** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

Order the book here http://tinyurl.com/cnlgyu

As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

Order Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

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BP Gulf Oil Spill Images

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

ZORIAH – zoriah.net blog


Posted: 06 Nov 2010 01:35 PM PDT

As with most of the topics I cover, just because the BP gulf cost oil spill is out of the headlines does not mean that the problems relating to it have just vanished.  I think a lot of people, and even a lot of photojournalists, miss important stories because they are only interested in the first couple of weeks of a major event.  These images were taken months after the the oil spill and I am quite sure one could go today and gather similar pictures.  This is why I always encourage my workshop students to cover stories that they believe in and think people need to hear and not just the stories that sell.

You can find part one of this story here.

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Clean up workers from the US Department of Fish and Wildlife survey a sand bar after fresh oil washed ashore during the previous night.

 

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A pelican soars above a white egret with feathers  smudged in oil

 

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Clumps of oil litter a beach near Venice, Louisiana

 

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A massive pile of bags filled with oil soaked clean up material after an operation to remove oil from a sand bar

 

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A dolphin swims though an area that had been heavily polluted with oil in the wake of the BP spill

 

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A volunteer offers free pet food to residents of Grand Isle, Louisiana who rely on the fishing industry to make a living and support themselves and their pets.  Those working in the fishing industry, as well as their pets, face and indefinite future.  Many have chosen to give up their pets for fears of being unable to feed them.

 

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A local wears a shirt reading “S.O.S. Save Our Seafood”

 

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A sign stands in front of a home for sale in Grand Isle, Louisiana.  Many residents fear that their property may now be worth nothing as the tourism trade in the area has been decimated.

 

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A volunteer cleans an oil soaked bird in a bird rehabilitation center

 

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Workers try to remove oil from a contaminated beach

 

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One of the tens of thousands of offshore oil drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico

 

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A cleanup boat speeds through a waterway in one of the many contaminated regions of Louisiana.  My sincere thanks to the US Coast Guard for allowing me access to their airplanes in order to capture images like the one above.

 

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A large clean up crew labors to clean up a beach after yet another batch of oil washes ashore

Is the Gulf of Mexico safe?

November 7, 2010 Leave a comment


Experts, fishermen and residents disagree with federal agencies’ claims that the Gulf and its seafood are safe.

Gulf shrimp being offloaded at Dean Blanchard Seafood Distributors, Grand Isle, Louisiana [Erika Blumenfeld]

Gulf Coast residents, fishermen, seafood distributors, and scientists believe that living on the coast and eating seafood from the Gulf has become hazardous to their health.

In response to their oil disaster last summer that released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, BP admitted to using at least 1.9 million gallons of widely banned toxic Corexit dispersants (which have been banned in 19 countries) to sink the oil. The dispersants contain chemicals that many scientists and toxicologists have warned are dangerous to humans, marine life, and wildlife.

Earlier this year on May 20, the EPA told BP it had 24 hours to find a less toxic alternative, but the EPA’s request was ignored. Then on May 25, BP was given a directive by the EPA to scale back their spraying of the Gulf of Mexico with dispersants. The Coast Guard overlooked the EPA’s directive and provided BP with 74 exemptions in 48 days to use the dispersants.

A March 1987 report titled Organic Solvent Neurotoxicity, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), states: “The acute neurotoxic effects of organic solvent exposure in workers and laboratory animals are narcosis, anesthesia, central nervous system (CNS) depression, respiratory arrest, unconsciousness, and death.”

Several chemicals and chemical compounds listed in the NIOSH report, such as styrene, toluene, and xylene, are now present in the Gulf of Mexico as the result of BP’s dispersants mixing with BP’s crude oil.

Continue reading this article here.


** Dahr Jamail‘s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

 

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

Order the book here http://tinyurl.com/cnlgyu

As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

Order Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

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Broad Coalition Rallies for BP Accountability

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Inter Press Service
By Dahr Jamail


Louisiana fishers, seafood distributors, oil-field workers, conservationists and concerned citizens rally in Baton Rouge on Oct. 30. Credit:Erika Blumenfeld/IPS

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, Nov 1, 2010 (IPS) – Gulf coast fishers, conservationists, seafood distributors and oil workers rallied here at Louisiana’s capital over the weekend to demand that oil giant BP be held accountable for the “ongoing” use of toxic dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We don’t have the open sores and blisters caused by BP’s toxic dispersants that the people in Plaquemine’s Parish have,” Karen Hopkins from Grand Isle, Louisiana told IPS. “We are being poisoned by BP’s same dispersants, but our symptoms are more lethargy and depression symptoms caused by chemical poisoning.”

Hopkins, who works for Dean Blanchard Seafood, a large and well-known seafood distributor, was a member of the Oct. 30 Rally for Gulf Change, whose organisers said they were working towards “preserving our God-given rights to clean air and water for future generations.”

Drew Landry, who describes himself as “a songwriter who works for a commercial craw-fisherman”, told IPS that he first grew concerned about BP’s mishandling of the oil disaster, which began on Apr. 20 when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, by what he saw the oil giant do the following day.

“I played a concert in New Orleans on Apr. 20, and the next morning went to take one of the classes on how to clean oil,” Landry told IPS. “I realised it was not about cleaning oil, but rather BP’s effort to get a roster of names of commercial fishermen from whom they’d have to defend themselves against in the future.”

The organisers and speakers at the rally that was held on the steps of the state capitol building on a sunny Saturday were most concerned with BP’s massive use of toxic dispersants to sink the oil. The dispersants were also injected at the wellhead to keep most of the oil from reaching the surface.

BP used Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, both of which are banned in Britain and at least 19 other countries. Chemicals released from the combination of crude oil and dispersants can cause health problems that include central nervous system depression, respiratory problems, neurotoxic effects, genetic mutations, leukemia, birth defects, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage, among many others.

“I’ve had lung problems, auto-immune problems, nausea, headaches, and bronchitis because of BP’s disaster,” Beverly Armand from Grand Isle told IPS. “When I leave the area it clears up, and when I go back, I get sick again.”

Armand said her doctor has placed her on three different antibiotics, none of which has been very effective, and had her blood tested for hydrocarbons.

“My creatine level is high, and they found creosote in my blood,” she explained. “And we still have fresh oil coming in, and BP is still spraying Corexit. The stuff they are calling algae is foam caused by the dispersants.”

Protesters held signs that read “Hell No It’s Not Over”, “Ban Corexit Now”, and a drawing of a pelican with the words “I want my life back” – the last also a reference to comments by the former chief executive of BP, Tony Hayward, which were widely deemed insensitive to struggling Gulf residents.

Organisers told IPS that several people were unable to attend the rally because the interstate 10 highway from Lafayette was closed due to a chemical spill.

Susan Price, a small business owner from Chauvin, Louisiana, told IPS that she has been suffering from health problems since she was exposed in August to chemicals she believes are from the oil disaster.

“I’m worried for my grandchildren,” Price said at the rally. “The seafood is woefully under-tested for toxins, while the government and BP are patting themselves on the back for a job well done. We will not be lulled, be silenced, or stand down. We will fight to protect our people and our land.”

James Miller, a commercial fisherman from Mississippi, told onlookers that he found oil and dispersants in the water while fishing recently.

“I’ve had diarrhea, vomiting, the sweats, and been hospitalised for three days,” said Miller, who worked 73 days for BP as an oil spill responder. “I’ve seen the dead turtles, dead birds, dead dolphins and dead fish, and I’ve taken people out on my boat to show them the oil. It’s still there, and I can tell you the seafood is not safe to eat.”

Later that afternoon, the group convened a meeting at the Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge.

Rob Coulan, a businessman from Harvey, Louisiana, spoke of neuro-toxic side effects of the dispersants that have been well documented since at least 1987. “BP knew what this stuff would do long before they ever used it in the Gulf,” he said.

“BP used a world record amount of dispersants in our Gulf,” Marylee Orr, the executive director of Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said. “And we are doing petroleum hydrocarbon tests on soils, waters, and seafood and finding extremely high levels.”

“We still have oil, and all the problems associated with it,” Orr added. “And all the fishermen in this room will tell you that they [BP] are still using Corexit. The dead and dying birds and wildlife are merely a reflection of what is happening to us.”

Cherri Foytlin, whose husband works in the Gulf oil industry, announced that every Louisiana state representative and senator had been invited to both events. While she said that two had responded to her invitation by agreeing to meet with them, no one showed up at either event.

“In five to 10 years from now, people all along the Gulf Coast are going to be dropping dead from cancer, and that includes children,” Foytlin said, before directing her next comments towards BP. “I’m not your experiment. This is my life. Our Gulf is not your experiment.”


** Dahr Jamail’s MidEast Dispatches **
** Visit Dahr Jamail’s website http://dahrjamailiraq.com **

 

Dahr Jamail’s new book, The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, is now available.

Order the book here http://tinyurl.com/cnlgyu

As one of the first and few unembedded Western journalists to report the truth about how the United States has destroyed, not liberated, Iraqi society in his book Beyond the Green Zone, Jamail now investigates the under-reported but growing antiwar resistance of American GIs. Gathering the stories of these courageous men and women, Jamail shows us that far from “supporting our troops,” politicians have betrayed them at every turn. Finally, Jamail shows us that the true heroes of the criminal tragedy of the Iraq War are those brave enough to say no.

Order Beyond the Green Zone
http://dahrjamailiraq.com/bookpage

“International journalism at its best.” –Stephen Kinzer, former bureau chief, New York Times; author All the Shah’s Men

Winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism

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Tests Now Being Conducted for Corexit and Oil … Results Not Very Reassuring

November 3, 2010 4 comments

Source article

Real testing is starting to be conducted on dispersant and oil in the Gulf, the results are not looking so good:

* U.S. Government press release says NOAA, FDA now testing for dispersant: Corexit ingredient DOSS found in 13 samples — Up to 500 ppm allowed in shrimp, crabs, oysters [“DOSS” stands for Dioctyl Sulfosuccinate Sodium Salt – which might be nastier than BP is telling us]

* Crab containing 8,815 ppm of hydrocarbons had NO smell or sight of oil — “We were astonished there were levels like that”

* Research team “uncovered a PAH bonanza” — And just 190 parts per BILLION of PAHs is “considered pretty toxic” says professor at NASA installation

* Scott Milroy, a marine scientist at the University of Southern Mississippi, said seafood samples he gathered in September along the Mississippi coast showed levels… hundreds of times higher than the levels the government tests found

* TV report on shrimp with nearly 200 ppm oil in digestive system (VIDEO)

* LSU professor: Crude oil in seafood NOT detectable by ‘smell test’ — “We are being lied to”

* Fish organs are NOT the same color as they used to be, says BP/P2S worker — “You cut them open and they’re not the same” (VIDEO)

* Photo surfaces of black substance inside large fish caught by Florida man in late September

* 193 ppm of oil found inside shrimp purchased on Oct. 22 (Lab Results)

* EPA “BP Spill” testing across Gulf finds highest amount of heavy metal INSIDE FLORIDA BAYS — Raises “Level of Concern” (Lab Results)

In related news:

* “World renowned” scientist says currents WILL transport oil throughout Gulf — Florida’s EAST & WEST coasts under threat (VIDEO)

* “As deep as you could go”: No matter how far they dig at beach, the oil is already there — BP dissolved the oil in the water and it seeped into sand

* Head of cleanup on MS island: “Finding more and more and more oil” — “And this is like the fifth time we have come through here” (VIDEO)

* Reconnaissance flight over Gulf finds wetlands surrounded by oil (PHOTOS)

* BP cleanup worker: Oil “really hasn’t even been touched” — It’s “rolling in as we speak” (VIDEO)

* 60 percent have “NO TRUST” for BP’s information or the Feds’ response (Mobile, AL Survey)

* Clean up workers say that BP is limiting how much oil cleanup workers can clean up, and instead just covering oil up with sand, and that Corexit is still being sprayed at night:

http://vidrebel.wordpress.com/

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The Petroleum Broadcast System Owes Us an Apology

October 29, 2010 Leave a comment

PBS's second logo, from October 4, 1971 to Sep...

PBS's second logo, from October 4, 1971 to September 30, 1984.

by Greg Palast for Truthout/Buzzflash
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tonight, my dog Pluto and I watched the PBS ‘Frontline’ investigation of BP, “The Spill.”

PBS has uncovered a real shocker:  BP neglected safety!

Well, no shit, Sherlock!

Pluto rolled over on the rug and looked at me as if to say, Don’t we already know this?

Then PBS told us – get ready – that BP has neglected warnings about oil safety for years!

That’s true.  But so has PBS.  The Petroleum Broadcast System has turned a blind eye to BP perfidy for decades.

If the broadcast had come six months before the Gulf blow-out, after the 2005 BP Refinery explosion in Texas, after the 2006 Alaska pipeline disaster, after the years of government fines that flashed DANGER-DANGER, I would say, “Damn, that Frontline sure is courageous.”  But six months after the blow-out, PBS has shown us it only has the courage to shoot the wounded.

But hey, at least PBS is now on the case.

Or is it?  Despite press release hoo-hahs that this Frontline investigation would break news from a deep-digging inquiry, what we got was “Investigation by Google,” old stuff from old papers that PBS forgot to report the first time around. Well, that’s OK.  It’s not like I was expecting Edward R. Murrow.

Well, something’s better than nothing, right?

No, not in this case.  What us viewers were handed was a tale that could have been written by the PR department at BP’s competitor Chevron PR. The entire hour told us again and again and again, the problem was one company, BP, and its “management culture.”  (They used the phrase management ‘culture’ seven times – I counted.)

So, according to PBS, the problem is:  BP ain’t got no culture …

…Unlike Shell Oil‘s culture which has turned Nigeria into a toxic cesspool; unlike ExxonMobil‘s culture which remains in denial about the horror it heaped on Alaska.  And unlike Chevron’s culture, which I witnessed in the Amazon.  Chevron’s culture left Ecuadoran farmers with pustules all over their bodies and a graveyard of children dead of leukemia.

If you want to know the point of the PBS show, just go to the network’s Newshour webpage where Chevron’s logo has sat atop the news as PBS’ top corporate sponsor.

The PBS “investigative” report lovingly features the statements of Shell, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil and Chevron that, “BP did not act to industry standards.” Really? Did Frontline investigate these claims, or just run their sponsors’ assertions?

Perhaps the oil executives are right:  The oil industry’s “standards” typically involve mass poisoning, outrageous bribery and the use of mercenary death squads to silence media and activists.

There’s a lot on the line for Big Oil.  And that’s why the petroleum giants have a big motive to control the message.

And their message is this:  BP bad! Chevron good! ExxonMobil good! Shell good!

And that’s the message that Frontline repeated for them again and again and again.

The Frontline story was an exercise in damage control. If it’s just bad-boy BP’s “management culture,” then the rest of the industry is off the hook.  Then the crazy-ass deepwater drilling can continue and the Big Oil destruction machine can stay in high gear.

PBS sponsor Chevron is desperate to resume drilling in the Gulf. Shell is drooling over its delayed offshore project in Alaska’s Arctic seas.  If they can isolate BP, the horror show can go on.

BP will soon find deliverance by adopting a new “culture,” and presumably restore the PBS sponsorships they had so foolishly dropped.

I have just returned from the Gulf filming for … well, not PBS. In a four-seater skimming low over a filthy rig still spewing oil into the water.  It was not the Deepwater Horizon well.  Yes, oil pollution and drilling have destroyed the Gulf Coast.  State records show that Shell Oil has destroyed 2,707,767 cubic yards of Delta wetlands versus BP’s 234,201.

So, BP is not the worst, but that’s not saying much.  Indeed, while PBS was touting its former sponsor BP’s clean-and-green PR bullshit, I and many others were writing one furious story after another on BP’s lethal penny-pinching.  [See for example, “BP Failed to Act on Warnings of Alaska Tragedy” 1999, and “British Petroleum’s Smart Pig” 2006, both from the Guardian.]

The danger to our waters, the danger to oil workers’ lives, is not BP’s management culture, but the industry’s profits-over-people greed gone wild.

Why am I picking on poor little PBS?  I’ll be the first to tell you they are the best you’re going to get on the US boob tube.  And PBS has spared us embarrassing scenes of Anderson Cooper pretending to save an oily pelican while floating in a canoe with Bobby Jindal.

Tonight, in a deep, serious voice, the PBS narrator intoned, If BP had paid attention to the warnings of experts and regulators, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy could have been prevented.

Damn right. And if PBS had paid attention to the oil story, maybe that too could have prevented the tragedy.

In 1998, a prestigious producer working with BBC Television approached PBS and Frontline with a bombshell of a project:  The story of British Petroleum and its partners and revelations, then confidential, of reckless disregard, if not downright fraud, in preventing and containing massive oil spills.

PBS smacked it away.

Instead, Frontline’s producer, WGBH, spent several million dollars on The Commanding Heights.  The six-hour extravaganza was a panegyric to the entrepreneurial spirit of newly privatized oil and power companies.  Production was paid for by Enron. But when Enron’s Chairman Ken Lay was arrested, PBS had to find a new sugar daddy.   The new loot poured in from Margaret Thatcher’s privatized commander of the heights, British Petroleum.

I could give you twenty more examples of see no oil evil, though PBS’ recent refusal to run Crude, about Chevron in the Amazon, certainly stands out.

The Public Broadcast System takes our tax money.  It owes us something, no?  If we can’t get the real story about Big Oil, at least we deserve an apology.

I was waiting for the Frontline narrator to say:  “BP has kept the truth locked in its files for years – and so have we at PBS.   AND WE ARE ASHAMED. Send us back your coffee mug for a refund.”

******

Greg Palast directed the fraud investigation of BP and Exxon in the grounding of the Exxon Valdez for the Chugach Natives of Alaska.  Palast’s investigative reports can be seen on BBC Television Newsnight.  See them at www.GregPalast.com

Subscribe to Palast’s Newsletter and podcasts.
Follow Palast on Facebook and Twitter.

www.GregPalast.com

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Massive stretches of weathered oil spotted in Gulf of Mexico

October 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Published: Saturday, October 23, 2010, 11:37 AM     Updated: Saturday, October 23, 2010, 6:45 PM

Just three days after the U.S. Coast Guard admiral in charge of the BP oil spill cleanup declared little recoverable surface oil remained in the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana fishers Friday found miles-long strings of weathered oil floating toward fragile marshes on the Mississippi River delta.

Oil Slick in Gulf of Mexico Enlarge Matthew Hinton, The Times-Picayune MATTHEW HINTON / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Oil was spotted in West Bay just west of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River, seen at top left, by the Gulf of Mexico Friday October 22, 2010. Oil Slick in West Bay gallery (9 photos)

  • Oil Slick in Gulf of Mexico
  • Oil Slick in Gulf of Mexico
  • Oil Slick in Gulf of Mexico
  • Oil Slick in Gulf of Mexico
  • Oil Slick in Gulf of Mexico

The discovery, which comes as millions of birds begin moving toward the region in the fall migration, gave ammunition to groups that have insisted the government has overstated clean-up progress, and could force reclosure of key fishing areas only recently reopened.

51 Comments

The oil was sighted in West Bay, which covers approximately 35 square miles of open water between Southwest Pass, the main shipping channel of the river, and Tiger Pass near Venice. Boat captains working the BP clean-up effort said they have been reporting large areas of surface oil off the delta for more than a week but have seen little response from BP or the Coast Guard, which is in charge of the clean-up. The captains said most of their sightings have occurred during stretches of calm weather, similar to what the area has experienced most of this week.

On Friday reports included accounts of strips of the heavily weathered orange oil that became a signature image of the spill during the summer. One captain said some strips were as much as 400 feet wide and a mile long.

The captains did not want to be named for fear of losing their clean-up jobs with BP.

Coast Guard officials Friday said a boat had been dispatched to investigate the sightings, but that a report would not be available until Saturday morning.

However, Times-Picayune photojournalist Matt Hinton confirmed the sightings in an over-flight of West Bay.

Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said if the sightings are confirmed by his agency, the area will be reclosed to fishing until it is confirmed oil-free again.

Just Tuesday, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, in charge of the federal response, and his top science adviser, Steve Lehmann, said that little of the 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf remained on the surface or even on the Gulf’s floor. Lehmann pointed to extensive tests conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that included taking samples of water from various depths, as well as collections of bottom sediments both far offshore and close to the coast.

Those claims, announced on the six-month anniversary of the spill, brought quick rebuttals from a variety of environmental and fishermen’s groups who insist their members have been reporting sightings of surface oil all along.

LSU environmental sciences professor Ed Overton, who has been involved in oil spill response for 30 years, said he believes both claims could be accurate. The Louisiana sweet crude from the Deepwater Horizon is very light and has almost neutral buoyancy, Overton said, which means that when it picks up any particles from the water column, it will sink to the bottom.

“It’s quite possible that when the weather calms and the water temperatures changes, the oil particles that have spread along the bottom will recoagulate, then float to the surface again and form these large mats.

“I say this is a possibility, because I know that the (Coast Guard) has sent boats out to investigate these reports, but by the time they get to the scenes, the weather has changed and they don’t see any oil.”

“I think the reports are credible, but I also think the incident responders are trying to find the oil, too,” Overton said. “This is unusual, but nothing about this bloody spill has been normal since the beginning.”

Overton said it is important for the state to discover the mechanism that is causing the oil to reappear because even this highly weathered oil poses a serious threat to the coastal ecology.

“If this was tar balls floating around, that would be one thing, but these reports are of mats of weathered oil, and that can cause serious problems if it gets into the marsh,” he said

The reports are a great concern to wildlife officials. The Mississippi delta is a primary wintering ground for hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese, some of which already have begun arriving. The West Bay area leads into several shallower interior bays that attract ducks, geese and myriad species of shore and wading birds each winter.

Earlier this month state wildlife officials were expressing optimism the spill would have minimal impact on most waterfowl visitors because little oil had penetrated the sensitive wintering grounds.

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