Blog Tags: Deepwater Horizon
Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. More than 6,000 birds, more than 600 sea turtles, and almost 100 marine mammals have died, and news surfaced this week that the spill likely killed 20 percent of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna in the vicinity of the spill. And the long-term effects remain to be seen.
It was the nation’s largest environmental disaster in history, and yet, there’s a pervading sense that the disaster is behind us, that the majority of the country has taken a deep breath and moved on. Congress hasn’t passed climate legislation, and the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned.
What’s wrong with this picture?
We’re frustrated. If you are too, here are some ways to channel that frustration into action:
1. Tell your Senators to support the development of offshore wind power. We have a new report out that shows how offshore wind would be cost-effective, more beneficial to job creation, and better for the environment and ocean in a variety of ways than offshore drilling.
After several days of rough seas, the crew finally got a break from Mother Nature, making their difficult task of retrieving the moorings a bit easier. But the oil rig that caught fire yesterday set everyone on edge, especially considering how close they were to the Deepwater Horizon. Here’s Will Race’s update from the last few days:
Wednesday, September 1:
Rest and recuperation was the theme for today. After five days of exhausting work the Oceana team ventured back out to the Deepwater Horizon mooring sites to continue retrieval.
Due to time restrictions and rough weather, only half the moorings from the originally planned experiment were set. Yes, this is science -- things don’t always go as planned. The zones with the highest level of importance have been covered and other areas of interest will have to wait.
The weather continues to throw roadblocks against the expedition. High seas and winds up to 30mph made it impossible to do any CTD scans today, and made the ride extremely rough and unpredictable. Tables, chairs and anything that was not tied down became airborne after every wave’s crest. Eventually it got bad enough that the captain of the ship altered course for “smoother” seas.
Today’s journey took us back out to sea and the closest to the Deepwater Horizon site so far this expedition. The amount of activity taking place around the relief well is astonishing. As the sun set and the light faded, the entire site was illuminated and it was unbelievable how much is going on there. It looked like a small city skyline at night.
In today's update from the boat, Will Race describes the crew's arrival at oil spill ground zero to deploy oil measuring straps. As you can see from today's photos, the crew endured the roughest conditions on the expeditions yet:
The site of the Deepwater Horizon was the focus of the day. The objective was to establish a 10 kilometer diameter of moorings around Deepwater Horizon site. With an average water depth of 1600 meters, the Oceana team knew it would be a long day.
At 6:30am team members positioned themselves on deck and had the pleasure of witnessing a beautiful Gulf of Mexico sunrise. Amidst the landscape of sunny cumulous clouds and dark unwieldy thunder fronts, there sat the site of the Deepwater Horizon. It was very noticeable thanks to the small city that has been crafted around the site. Shadows loomed over the spill site and brought a sobering reminder to what the objective of the day was.
While Oceana’s senior campaign communications manager Dustin Cranor gets a much-deserved break on land, Pacific administrative assistant Will Race will be sending us updates from the boat for the next few weeks. Here’s Will's first post:
Wednesday brought heat, humidity and eight new Oceana staff members, who will take part in a two-week oil plume experiment. Alongside Vice President of Oceana Europe, Xavier Pastor, the experiment will be led by Pacific Director, Susan Murray and Pacific Science Director, Dr. Jeff Short. The team will head out Friday to begin the study.
The Oceana Latitude also had to say goodbye to ROV operator Matthias Gorny and Oceana Pacific office staff Cayleigh Allen. The two embarked on a three day journey to Monterey, California, where they will participate in the Oceana Pacific California Current expedition and use the ROV to document important ecological areas of Monterey Bay.
From CNN.com today:
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico further east than previously suspected and at levels toxic to marine life, researchers reported Monday.
Initial findings from a new survey of the Gulf conclude that dispersants may have sent the oil to the ocean floor, where it has turned up at the bottom of an undersea canyon within 40 miles of the Florida Panhandle. Plankton and other organisms showed a "strong toxic response" to the crude, according to researchers from the University of South Florida.
"The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said John Paul, a marine microbiologist at USF.
Well, BP’s “static kill” seems to have finally plugged the leak in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 3 months after it began spewing oil into the ocean. (Though the final nail in the coffin won’t come until the “bottom kill” succeeds.)
And despite the optimistic reports today, the amount of oil remaining in the gulf is still equivalent to at least four times the amount that spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster, and possibly double that.
NOAA predicts that 26% of the oil is “residual” or still residing in the gulf and that another 24% was “dispersed” but much of that may still be hanging around waiting for mother nature (a.k.a. bacteria) to break it down. Further, NOAA says some of the oil is “dissolved” which doesn’t mean the same thing as “disappeared.” So more than half of the oil could still be dwelling in the Gulf – maybe as much as 8 Exxon Valdez spills’ worth.
And there are still many, many unanswered questions.
This year’s Adult Ocean Hero is Jay Holcomb, the Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC). As I wrote a few weeks ago, Jay is down on the Gulf Coast leading his organization’s efforts to clean up oiled birds from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
How does it feel to win this award?
In a nut shell, it feels really great. I never did the work I do expecting to be awarded for it. My career stems from a passion that has burned in me since I was a child. Being recognized for helping to protect and represent the oceans more or less justifies the sacrifices I have made in my life for my work.
The timing is pretty incredible, huh?
It’s ironic and poignant that I won this award while I am in the midst of what is looking like the greatest oil spill disaster of all time, and that of course is polluting the ocean and the ecosystems within it.
The impact on the ocean and the world will be severe. This we know. But as horrible as this spill is, the timing may be perfect. This disaster is an opportunity to make the point that the ocean systems are the lifeblood of life on earth as we know it.
Look at what our quest for oil has done, and if this does not evoke a change in how we "fuel" our world then nothing will. We are ALL responsible for this. Not just BP or the oil industry or our government.
Today is the first official day of hurricane season, and meteorologists predict that it could be a doozy.
That alone would be cause for concern on the Gulf Coast, but there’s also the pesky matter of the biggest oil spill in U.S. history that continues to defy containment efforts. A hurricane in the Gulf could push even more oil ashore and would shut down response efforts to the spill.
Breaking news this morning: A Coast Guard official says the “top kill” maneuver has stopped the oil leak that has been gushing into the gulf for more than a month, though engineers still have to seal the well permanently with cement before they deem it a success.
And more good news -- President Obama will announce today that he is extending the moratorium on permits to drill new deepwater wells for six more months.
Meanwhile, this morning Oceana Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist Mike Hirshfield will testify about the costs of offshore drilling before the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Oceana board member Ted Danson was on Larry King Live last night sounding off on offshore drilling. It’s an issue near and dear to Danson; he has been an outspoken critic of offshore oil and gas development for decades.
If you're as incensed as he is, sign our petition to stop offshore drilling and pass it on.