Outside Looking In
BP Gulf Oil Spill: Seven Months Later | Africana Online: Breaking News, U.S., Politics, Finance and More
Seven months has passed since the worst maritime oil spill in history. Although the reporters have left and the news coverage of the clean-up is virtually nothing, the mess still remains along Louisiana’s gulf coast. How much actual damage was caused to the environment is still unclear and debatable. What is not debatable is the mess left on the economy of Louisiana. Where the 200 million gallons of oil went to still remains a mystery and depends on who you ask. Government officials say that the oil is gone, eaten up by the dispersants that were sprayed across vast areas of surface and subsurface waters.
However, there are still reports of oil washing up on shorelines of all four coastal Gulf States. In an Oct. 27 briefing, the oil spill response command said 93 miles of coastline had moderate to heavy oil. Two months earlier, on Aug. 24, that number was 135 miles. Despite the heavy public relations campaign to the contrary, oil has been discovered in the gills of shrimp according to William Hogarth, dean of South Florida’s marine sciences college and former assistant administrator for fisheries with the National Marine Fisheries Service. Hogarth also reminds us that, “There may not be an immediate effect on species right now, but we could be seeing such an effect in a year, three years, five years from now.” This leads us to an additional major concern, the dispersants.
The poorly studied dispersants may have hidden the huge globs of oil; they may have also increased the health risk of the environment. New research recently released by Peter Hodson, an aquatic toxicologist from Queen’s University in Ontario raises those questions about the dispersants. The problem, explains Hodson, is that the dispersed cloud of microscopic oil droplets allows the PAHs to contaminate a volume of water 100-1,000 times greater than if the oil were confined to a floating surface slick. This hugely increases the exposure of wildlife to the dispersed oil. “EPA was presenting only part of the risk equation,” he told the meeting. “They’re trying to sugar-coat the message. In trying to understand the risks of dispersed oil, we need to understand exposure.”
There is also the economic toll to consider. Fishermen and businesses in the gulf region continue to struggle. Demand for the once sought after gulf shrimp is low, despite the PR campaign from the government that the seafood from the gulf is safe. Clean up work continues at a slower pace. Locals are being laid off from the cleanup crews and replaced by cheaper, out of area contractors. “There’s a war brewing down here,” says JJ Creppel, an out of work fishermen who never got a chance to work for BP’s lucrative cleanup program. “BP doesn’t know what they’ve got on their hands. People have had enough.” Money is tight for many Gulf area residents and the BP claim process is not helpful to most people.
There are thousands of reports of missed payments and an overall sense of confusion by those that are eligible for the claim payments.
Although the rest of the country wants to turn away from the disaster, those living in the Gulf area do not have that luxury. The full environmental effect from the oil spill may not be known for years, but it is clear that the government, funded by big oil, just hopes it all goes away. Millions of Americans still drive around in their gas guzzling SUV’s without a thought and the major oil companies are not going to change anything to make drilling any safer. Drill, baby, drill. Right?