Category Archives: Gulf Oil Catastrophe

Much Gulf Oil Remains, Deeply Hidden and Under Beaches


Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care

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As BP finishes pumping cement into the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead Thursday, some scientists are taking issue with a new U.S. government report that says the “vast majority” of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been taken care of by nature and “robust” cleanup efforts.

In addition, experts warn, much of the toxic oil from the worst spill in U.S. history may be trapped under Gulf beaches, where it could linger for years, or still migrating into the ocean depths, where it’s a “3-D catastrophe,” one scientist said…

Read Full Article, The National Geographic

BP Oil spill: officially the worst disaster off a U.S. coast


Oil platform. Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care

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BP ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico released more than 200 million gallons of oil before it was capped, government officials said Monday, as the company was poised to stuff the well with dense mud in preparation for a final seal later this month.

The new figures, described as the most accurate to date, place the size of the BP spill in the upper range of earlier estimates, affirming the disaster’s ranking as by far the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history…

Read Full Article, The LA Times

E.P.A : It Was Wise to Use Oil Dispersant

Oil Dispersant
An aircraft releases chemical dispersant over an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Captions and Photo source: NOAA /US Coast Guards

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Spraying dispersants on oily water in the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t make the mixture any more toxic than the water was with Louisiana sweet crude alone, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday.

Paul Anastas, the agency’s assistant administrator for research and development, said that the toxicity of the mix of oil and dispersant sprayed to combat the gulf oil spill was generally in the range of moderate, comparable to the effects of the oil.

So while the use of toxic chemicals in the gulf has always been recognized as a trade-off of risks, he said, the agency’s latest research shows that using dispersants to limit the effects of the BP spill was wise…

“The idea of fighting one toxic chemical, oil, with another, dispersant, does not sit well with all parties.” And Mr. Anastas said that further studies were needed. “The type of acute toxicity we’re discussing today is only one part of the hazard,’’ he said. Another is the health effects of the breakdown products of the dispersant, which the agency has yet to investigate…

Read Full Article, The New York Times

Oil Spill Dispersants Shifting Ecosystem Impacts in Gulf, Scientists Warn, The New York Times
A seemingly feel-good story showed up this week on the nation’s front pages and newscasts: The oil that befouled the Gulf of Mexico for 86 days is vanishing from the surface, leaving workers with little to clean. But scientists warn the oil’s ecological impacts are shifting, not ebbing, thanks to massive volumes of dispersants that have kept the crude beneath the waves…

Louisiana blue crabs are tough, but oil spill and dispersant might be tougher

Scientists and Academics Call For Immediate Halt of Chemical Dispersants in Gulf, The Ocean Foundation
Over 100 scientists and academic institution, research laboratory, conservation organization leaders plus human rights defenders from as far away as Norway and Greece have issued, July 18th, a joint Scientists Consensus Statement on the Use of Chemical Dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico calling for the US Administration to immediately halt chemical aerial spraying in the Gulf region.
BP has used nearly two million gallons of Corexit chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the cleanup effort with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The massive volume of dispersants and the way they have been applied, both on the surface and one mile below the surface, is unprecedented. Once oil is dispersed in deep water, it cannot be recovered.
The rationale behind the use of the dispersant is to keep oil from the sensitive wetlands and coastlines. However, by dispersing the oil throughout the water column, this practice is making it impossible to recover the dispersed oil at the surface while plumes of the dispersed oil remain at depth, entering the food chain at many levels where it will bioaccumulate as it moves up the food chain.
Corexit is one of the most toxic dispersants and one of the least effective on Louisiana crude oil. However, it is the mixture of Corexit and oil that represents an even greater threat as the toxic effects are magnified. Corexit, designed to break down lipid layers, facilitates the movement of toxic materials across the membranes of wildlife and human beings. The dispersant-oil mixture is killing marine wildlife, including dolphins, whales and fish, while also causing a range of serious human health effects to those who have been exposed.
The scientists believe the worst impacts of the disaster are yet to come, and without deliberate, independent scientific tracking and assessment, they could remain hidden…

EPA Response On Oil Dispersants

Fishermen wrinkle their noses at smell tests


Photograph: © SAF – Coastal Care

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Even the people who make their living off the seafood-rich waters of Louisiana’s St. Bernard Parish have a hard time swallowing the government’s assurances that fish harvested in the shallow, muddy waters just offshore must be safe to eat because they don’t smell too bad…

Louisiana wildlife regulators on Friday reopened state-controlled waters east of the Mississippi to harvesting of shrimp and “fin fish” such as redfish, mullet and trout. Smell tests on dozens of specimens from the area revealed barely traceable amounts of toxins, the federal Food and Drug Administration said.

The tests were done not by chemical analysis, but by scientists trained to detect the smell of oil and dispersant…

Read Full Article, Daily News / AP

NOAA, The Sniff Test

What is a BP spill seafood sniffer? The Week

New Questions Arise On Dispersant Use In Oil Spill

dispersant-oil-spill
Plane Drops Dispersants on Oil Spill. Captions and Photo source: ©© NWF

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BP inched closer to permanently sealing the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico as environmental officials defended themselves Sunday against assertions they allowed the oil giant liberal use of chemical dispersants whose threat to sea life remains unknown.

The Coast Guard routinely approved BP requests to use thousands of gallons of chemicals per day to break up the oil, despite a federal directive to use the dispersant rarely, congressional investigators said…

Read Full Article, AP / The Economic Times

On the Surface, Gulf Oil Spill Is Vanishing Fast; Concerns Stay

oil-pollution-gulf
Oil in the surf, Orange beach, Alabama, June 2010. Captions and Photo source: ©© David Rencher

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The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico appears to be dissolving far more rapidly than anyone expected, a piece of good news that raises tricky new questions about how fast the government should scale back its response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone, though sightings of tar balls and emulsified oil continue here and there.

Reporters flying over the area Sunday spotted only a few patches of sheen and an occasional streak of thicker oil, and radar images taken since then suggest that these few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf…

Read Full Article, The New York Times

Deepwater Horizon alarms were switched off

deepwater-horizon-oil-spill
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21, 2010. A Coast Guard MH-65C dolphin rescue helicopter and crew document the fire aboard the mobile offshore drilling unit Deepwater Horizon, while searching for survivors April 21, 2010. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon’s 126 person crew. Captions and Photo source: U.S. Coast Guard

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Vital warning systems on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig were switched off at the time of the explosion in order to spare workers being woken by false alarms, a federal investigation has heard.

The revelation that alarm systems on the rig at the centre of the disaster were disabled, and that key safety mechanisms had also consciously been switched off, came in testimony by a chief technician working for Transocean, the drilling company that owned the rig…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

First scientific proof : Oil plumes definitely from BP’s well

oil-pollution-gulf
Oil in the surf, Orange beach, Alabama, June 2010. Captions and Photo source: ©© David Rencher

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Researchers in Florida say they have the first scientific proof that two plumes of oil beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico came from BP’s broken well.

University of South Florida scientists said Friday they linked the oil to BP’s well based on chemical tests of two plumes discovered in late May. BP initially denied the plumes even existed.

Federal researchers say concentrations of underwater oil have at least doubled since last month.

Figuring out the oil’s source is pivotal as the government assesses the environmental damage caused by the massive spill and how much BP will have to pay for it.

Read Full Article, The Washington Times

Qualified Good News on Subsea Dispersed Oil Plumes: Continued Low Oil Concentrations, No Dead Zones; Science Magazine

Second Federal Analysis Gives Further Clues about Location and Movement of Subsurface Oil; NOAA
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) today released its second peer-reviewed, analytical summary report about subsurface oil monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico. The report contains preliminary data collected at 227 sampling stations extending from one to 52 kilometers from the Deepwater Horizon/BP wellhead. Data shows movement of subsurface oil is consistent with ocean currents and that concentrations continue to be more diffuse as you move away from the source of the leak. This confirms the findings of the previous report.