gulf oil spill
Hereâ€™s another guest post from our friends at Auburn University in Alabama:
Formed by the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta (pictured here) is a complex network of tidally influenced rivers, creeks, bays, lakes, wetlands, and bayous.
These salt marshes and coastal wetlands are part of a highly productive estuary at the head of Mobile Bay. Listed by the United States Congress as a National Natural Landmark, the Delta is an ecological wonder providing vital habitats for nursery, refuge and forage for vast numbers of fish and shellfish.
From yesterday's New York Times:
Federal scientists and coastal residents agree in at least one respect: that the long-term effects of the spill are unknown, and that it is too early to make any conclusions about the true scale of the damage. That uncertainty leads to perhaps the most potent source of skepticism: a deep anxiety about the regionâ€™s economic future.
Well, BPâ€™s â€śstatic killâ€ť 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 wonâ€™t come until the â€śbottom killâ€ť 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 â€śresidualâ€ť or still residing in the gulf and that another 24% was â€śdispersedâ€ť 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 â€śdissolvedâ€ť which doesnâ€™t mean the same thing as â€śdisappeared.â€ť So more than half of the oil could still be dwelling in the Gulf â€“ maybe as much as 8 Exxon Valdez spillsâ€™ worth.
And there are still many, many unanswered questions.
Auburn University is doing some great work on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and their kind folks sent us this photo of a heron walking along an oil boom with a skimming vessel in the background.
In other bird news, Dr. Geoff Hill, nationally-known professor of ornithology at Auburn, recently described the impact of the gulf spill on bird populations, in particular, the brown pelican. Hill drew some interesting comparisons between the impact of the oil and the impact of the pesticide, DDT in the 1970s.
Stay tuned for more from Auburn!
From yesterdayâ€™s Washington Post:
BP's well was gushing faster than expected, government experts said. The latest estimate pegs original "flow rate" at 62,000 barrels a day (2.6 million gallons), higher than the last estimate of 35,000 to 60,000 barrels. As the reservoir was depleted, the rate was reduced to 53,000 barrels a day. They calculated the total oil coming from the blown-out well at 4.9 million barrels, more than 18 times the amount of oil that was spilled during the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Oceana campaign director Jackie Savitz discussed the dangers of dispersants on CNNâ€™s â€śThe Situation Roomâ€ť last night, check it out:
And tomorrow she will testify before the full Senate Environment & Public Works Committee about the known effects of dispersants. Savitz will offer her perspective on use of Corexit, and will argue that dispersant use is â€śthe lesser of two evils.â€ť
From yesterdayâ€™s New York Times, which confirmed that the BP spill is by far the worldâ€™s largest accidental release of oil into the ocean:
â€śWeâ€™ve never had a spill of this magnitude in the deep ocean,â€ť said Ian R. MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University.
â€śThese things reverberate through the ecosystem,â€ť he said. â€śIt is an ecological echo chamber, and I think weâ€™ll be hearing the echoes of this, ecologically, for the rest of my life.â€ť
Here is an explanation of BPâ€™s â€śstatic killâ€ť tactic being used to close the well from todayâ€™s Washington Post:
The "static kill" is part of a double whammy of mud and cement that would hit the runaway Macondo well high and low in quick succession. The static kill starts at the top, firing the mud and possibly cement into the blowout preventer that sits on the wellhead.
That effort, which would take a day or two, would be followed in another five to seven days by the start of the more laborious "bottom kill," in which mud and cement will be injected into Macondo through a relief well that engineers began drilling at the beginning of May.
From today's Washington Post:
"That stuff's somewhere," said James H. Cowan Jr., a professor at Louisiana State University. His research has shown concentrations of oil still floating miles from the wellhead. "It's going to be with us for a while. I'm worried about some habitats being exposed chronically to low concentrations of toxins. . . . If the water's contaminated, the animals are going to be contaminated."
From todayâ€™s Washington Post:
"The sheer volume of oil that's out there has to mean there are some pretty significant impacts," [NOAA director Jane Lubchenco] said. "What we have yet to determine is the full impact the oil will have not just on the shoreline, not just on wildlife, but beneath the surface."