April 20, 2012
Two-Years Later, Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Still Having An Impact
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
Two-years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig made the Gulf of Mexico shorelines a hotbed for headlines at the time, and even today.
Leased by BP, the rig operators were drilling at a depth of a little over 4,000-ft of water southeast of Houston when an explosion on the rig killed 11 crewmen, and started a fire that would ultimately be the Deepwater Horizon's demise.
A group of scientists appointed by the government to calculate the size of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico determined that about 4.9 million barrels, or 205.8 million gallons had tainted the ocean waters. This covered an area of about 68,000 square miles of ocean, which is about the size of the state of Oklahoma.
The oil spill shut down beaches in some parts of the Gulf Coast, and also forced fisherman to take a hiatus from their work for a few months.
Two years ago, media outlets began reporting about the spill, but no one could properly speculate just how much, and what, it would cost.
During the time of the ocean tragedy, it seemed like time slowed down as organizations from across the world tried to help find a way to plug up the spill.
The depth of the drilling made it more complicated for engineers to try and come up with a fix, and it took until September 19, 2010 to come up with a permanent closure.
Now, reports are coming in of deformed seafood from the Gulf, alarming scientists and the fishing community of what impact this spill made on the marine life.
Dr Cowan, with Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, found signs of mutated shrimp, fish with sores, underdeveloped blue crabs lacking claws, and eyeless crabs and shrimp, pointing BP and its Deepwater Horizon oil rig at blame.
Another study found the presence of oil in the bile extracted from fish caught in August 2011, about a year after BP's broken well was capped.
Steve Murawski, a marine biologist with the University of South Florida, told Business Week that "Bile tells you what a fish's last meal was."
"There was as late as August of last year an oil source out there that some of those animals were consuming," he told Business Week.
About three percent of the fish the University of South Florida scientists caught displayed gashes, ulcers and parasites symptomatic of environmental contamination.
Dolphins that have washed up on the Gulf Coast since the last two years are now becoming an important part of the investigation to determine exactly what BP should be paying to restore wildlife.
Some of the dolphins are being preserved in liquid nitrogen in giant freezers in marine labs across the U.S., becoming what could be key evidence in determining BP's bill.
Samantha Joye, a professor in the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, reported on September 10, 2010 that a substantial layer of oily sediment stretched dozens of miles in all directions.
By January 2011, researchers from the University of South Florida found that layers of oil near the wellhead were "up to 5 times thicker" than recorded by the team in August 2010.
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) began a surge last year and found that the health effects of the oil spill on cleanup workers included: eye, nose and throat irritation; respiratory problems; blood in urine, vomit and rectal bleeding; seizures; nausea and violent vomiting; skin irritation, burning and lesions; short-term memory loss and confusion; liver and kidney damage; central nervous system effects and nervous system damage; hypertension; and miscarriages.
The cleanup workers experiencing these conditions claimed they had been threatened with being fired from their job if they were to request respirators while cleaning up the oil because it would "look bad in media coverage."
Scientists have effectively determined the size of the oil spill, as well as what kind of damage it has caused the marine ecology and crewmen, but BP and the U.S. government are still trying to determine the cost of the oil spill.
A $7.8 billion settlement was proposed on Wednesday by BP to the over 100,000 people suing for economic damages.
BP has also paid at least $14 billion in cleanup and other costs since the accident took place two-years ago today.
The U.S. government released a final report on January 5, 2011 detailing what companies were to blame that led to the spill.
The oil spill commission found that BP, Halliburton and Transocean had attempted to work more cheaply and helped to trigger the explosion and ensuing leakage.
"Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money)," the report read.
Just a few months later, BP filed $40 billion worth of lawsuits against rig owner Transocean, cementer Halliburton and blowout-preventer manufacturer Cameron.
BP claimed that failed safety systems and irresponsible behavior of contractors led to the explosion, and Halliburton had "negligently" failed to use cement-modeling software OptiCem properly to analyze safe well requirements.
It has only been two years since the disaster, but it seems like it has been a lifetime of the blame-game. However, it is the ecology that has the most uncertain future.
On the 10-year anniversary of the oil spill, we can only hope that there aren't even more reports of mutant shrimp, sick fish and dead dolphins.
Some of the good that came from the spill was learning from mistakes. Scientists reported on Friday in the journal Bioscience that they have created a new model for understanding how deep water oil spills occur.
They wrote that the lack of understanding deep-water spills may have hindered initial work on the disaster and obscured understanding of what actually happened in early days.
The authors said that if their model had been in use, responders would have proceeded in a different way.
It is research like this that has been done since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that may help keep it the last great oil spill in history.