Living next door to Louisiana, and being a frequent Gulf visitor, I am deeply concerned about the recent catastrophe of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. An oil spill is harmful to the environment. Think back to the Exxon Valdez incident. The British Petroleum (BP) oil rig explosion and failure has topped that tragedy.
Oil spill cleanup is a slow process. In the Gulf, uncooperative waters have deterred workers. Additionally, the rig was located in deep water, approximately 5000 feet deep, which also hampers any efforts. Recent calmer waters are helpful, but in my eyes, the damage is already done.
I was listening to British Petroleum’s CEO on NPR radio, he stated that BP would finance the oil spill cleanup and pay legitimate liability claims. According to the report, liability insurance for this rig was in place but it may have been too little. Apparently, there are different levels of insurance for different rig features. The Horizon rig was insured on the lower end. This puts the excess burden on BP.
Since oil and water do not mix (oil rises to the surface in saltwater), if contained, it can be sucked into oil containment vessels. Early containment efforts tried utilizing oil containment booms, which failed due to the amount of oil still spilling into the Gulf and the rough waters.
When this method failed, they tried controlled burns, or in situ burns. However, this method releases toxins into the air. Since oil was still spilling into the gulf this method could not keep up with the flow and essentially failed.
BP also mentioned adding detergents to the oil to break down the chemical components. So, what happens to the detergent after it breaks down the oil? Does it evaporate? Does the water absorb it? No, the oil-soaked detergent sinks to the ocean floor. In my opinion, this will eventually make its way to our beaches and cause a messy, tar-filled, experience.
Under normal circumstances (there is always some oil seeping into the gulf naturally), I have seen birds with tar rings on their little legs and matting their feathers. I am sure the bits of scrap fish, clams, and food they find on the shore have tar on it. I cannot imagine this is good for the birds. With the scope of the Horizon spill, I am sure the after effects will be much worse.
There is a natural method of allowing the environment to alleviate an oil spill on its own. The sun, water, and weather patterns repair the damage and evaporate the oil naturally. The Deepwater Horizon spill is too big for this method of oil spill cleanup.
Since shut off efforts have finally succeeded, BP is now trying to clean up this mess. However, the effects will not be known for years to come and after years of continual research. Looking at catastrophic oil spills from the past will give a lot of insight into how the gulf will fare in the future.
The coastline tourist industries fear the effect the oil spill will have on tourism. Without tourists, these areas will turn to ghost towns. Fisherman have fears about the damage the oil will have on the future seafood caught in the gulf. According to the Washington Post, The shrimp, crab, and oyster-fishing industry in Louisiana contributes about 10% of the United States seafood.
Marshland areas in Louisiana are facing the effects of this oil spill. The oil made its way to the marshes where shrimp bask and mate. The area also serves as habitat for birds, and other aquatic life, and serves as excellent breeding grounds. Additionally, the marshes serve as a natural water filtration system, a flood deterrent and barrier. Oil is toxic. Animals are dying, or fleeing, and clean-up efforts are a slow process. The future of these areas is still up in the air.
NPR Radio reported the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) will be funding studies along the Texas coastline to research the effects of this oil spill. There is a similar fund in place in Louisiana. They will be testing the waters, fish, and wildlife for toxicity and damages.
I fear the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will plague the Gulf coastline for years. I do not expect we will be hearing of a bright end to the saga.
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