gulf of mexico oil spill
There is no truly effective way of cleaning up an oil spill. All the options available are not fully effective or have negative impacts.
Burning the Slick
Unfortunately, burning the oil is a no-win situation; it creates large, toxic plumes of smoke that can result in respiratory problems and eye, nose, throat and skin irritations in both wildlife and humans. Birds may also become disoriented in the smoke.
Burning may be the lesser of two evils as it removes large amounts of oil that can result in immediate and long-term impacts to wildlife in the area, including skin irritations, organ damage, reproductive failures, developmental abnormalities and death.
There was plenty of finger pointing at this week’s Congressional oil spill hearings.
The chairman of BP America, Lamar McKay, said BP is responsible for cleaning up the spill, but he blamed Transocean for the failure of the safety seal.
Then Transocean CEO Steven Newman said that since BP is the operator, the spill is ultimately the oil giant’s fault. And Halliburton executive Tim Probert denied that flaws in his company's cement contributed to the leak.
Meanwhile, oil continues to flow, uninterrupted, into the Gulf of Mexico.
But what the company executives and government officials fail to recognize is that the oil spill is not the fault of one company -- it represents an endemic lack of accountability from the oil industry and government agencies as a whole. The catastrophe isn’t the result of one mistake, it’s the result of a fundamentally broken system.
There is anger and bewilderment in New Orleans. Five years after Katrina comes the Deepwater Drilling Disaster, which continues to gush 210,000 gallons of oil into the gulf every day.
Last Saturday’s rally, organized by the Sierra Club with the support of Oceana as well as local groups such as the Gulf Restoration Network, drew several hundred supporters to Lafayette Square Park with the mantra, “Clean It Up!”
Speakers included local fishermen, wildlife experts, and politicians. The message to BP and the federal government was clear: cap the spill, clean it up, and never let it happen again.
As evidenced by all the comments and e-mails we’ve been getting the last few weeks, it’s clear that you all want to know how to help respond to the Gulf oil spill. And a big thanks to everyone who has already taken action with us!
Here’s an update on what you can do, whether you are in the Gulf region or not:
What you can do on the ground in the Gulf:
- Register through OilSpillVolunteers.com to volunteer or join a cleanup organization.
- The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) is accepting volunteers. Register on their website.
- The Mobile Baykeeper is asking for volunteers. Call 251-433-4229.
- The Audubon Society is looking for help. You can report oiled wildlife at 1-866-557-1401. To report areas with oil ashore or to leave contact information to volunteer in the affected areas, call 1-866-448-5816.
- The BP Volunteer Hotline has set up numbers if you need to report injured wildlife or damage related to the spill. You can also request volunteer information at 866-448-5816.
What you can do from anywhere:
- Become an Oceana Oil Activist and find out about volunteer opportunities in your area.
- Sign the petition: Tell President Obama and Congress to stop new offshore drilling.
- Donate today to help us make sure another catastrophe like this doesn't happen again.
- Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and help spread the word.
- Reduce your consumption of gasoline by driving less: use public transit, ride your bike and walk.
One plan involves building up almost 70 miles of barrier islands by dredging sand and mud, including some from the bottom of the Mississippi River, and depositing it onto the outer shores of the islands, a process that would normally require years of environmental assessment.
Sediments from the river are likely to be contaminated with a host of other chemicals, like mercury, which could add insult to injury in the already badly contaminated Gulf waters.
Some of these islands are home to bird and wildlife sanctuaries, including the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. The plan may not work because the barrier islands have shrunk significantly, in part as a result of human engineering that has altered the flow of Mississippi for a variety of reasons -- including in efforts to facilitate oil and gas production.
After the Deepwater Drilling Disaster began 17 days ago, we’ve all tried to figure out why we should continue to expand drilling offshore.
For those who think it’s because it will help us achieve energy independence, think again. There is no way that we can drill our way to energy independence – and the government knows it.
Right now, we get about 65% of our oil from other countries, the biggest sources being Canada and Mexico. And government studies show that all the oil in US waters wouldn’t change that figure much. It would only lower it to about 60% at best. A government study expected to come out soon shows that even that much is unlikely.
A few days ago, more than 20 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles washed up on Mississippi’s shores. While there is no evidence the deaths are linked to the oil spill, the incident may be merely foreshadowing what’s to come for sea turtles in the Gulf.
Sea turtles come to the surface to breathe, and NOAA reports that between 30 and 50 sea turtles (species unknown) were seen swimming yesterday in or near the oil spill. It may be only a matter of time until we see oiled turtles stranded on beaches as well.
Kemp’s ridleys, the smallest and most threatened sea turtle in the world, typically spend their entire lives in the Gulf of Mexico, nesting only on beaches in Mexico and southern Texas, giving them the name the “Gulf’s Sea Turtle”. And right now is the peak migration season for the turtles as they return to their nesting grounds.
"I will make it short and to the point," said Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida). "The president's proposal for offshore drilling is dead on arrival.” Senator Nelson was joined by New Jersey Democratic Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez.
The Senators also vowed to keep new oil drilling provisions out of any climate change legislation that comes out of the Senate, and Senator Menendez has introduced new legislation to raise the limit on the amount of money oil companies could be forced to pay for economic damages from catastrophic oil spills.
The gulf oil spill is proving to be not just an ecological disaster, but an economic one, too.
On Sunday the federal government closed commercial and recreational fishing from Louisiana to parts of the Florida Panhandle, and oil continues to gush unabated from the Deepwater Horizon rig.
The fishing ban extends between Louisiana state waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River to waters off Florida's Pensacola Bay.
That’s a significant blow to the economy of the region. The Gulf Coast is home to the second largest seafood industry in the country after Alaska.
The annual commercial seafood harvest in the gulf adds up to $661 million, and recreational fishing contributes $757 million and nearly 8,000 jobs, according to the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. The group estimates that $1.6 billion in annual economic activity is tied to the wetlands directly exposed to the spill.
So now fishermen are doing the only thing they can -- gritting their teeth and helping to clean up the oil that is putting their livelihoods at risk.