Three Years In: How Long will BP Spill Haunt Coastal Residents?

I have caught a lot of flack over the past couple of years over the BP oil spill. In fact, I’ve lost friends because of my stance (and this one too).  What I’m more worried about, though are the long term repercussions of the massive oil spill that annihilated the Gulf of Mexico and took 87 days to cap. That’s nearly three months of oil that poured into the waters that still feed countless Americans.

From the tumors found on several fish species to the questionable decisions of the EPA, NOAA and Coast Guard to support continued consumption of the seafood out of the Gulf, there’s not a time I’ve wondered if maybe I need to bite my tongue. These days, I’m even more convinced.

pageRemember, the Coast Guard allowed BP to continue dumping millions of barrels of those chemicals – Corexit – that were supposed to disperse the oil. That was insanity at its finest. Basically, BP was allowed to dump poison (dispersants) into a body of water with the support of the American government – that then encouraged people to eat from that well of poison.

Soon, though, BP had managed to buy some folks off. Many politicians and “everyday citizens” took to the airwaves to provide a degree of legitimacy to the claims that Gulf seafood was safe. From the then-governor of my own state, Haley Barbour, to business owners who’d lost nearly everything and were trying to rebuild, BP had ripe pickings of those willing to sell out. And yes – Barbour sold out.

This past January, a three day meeting of the minds was held. The Gulf of Mexico Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference was pulled together in an effort of better understanding the effects of the oil spill – both on humans and the delicate ecosystem in this region of the country. Robert Dickey, who is the director of the FDA Gulf Coast Seafood, continued to insist that the tests revealed following the spill shows commercial seafood is safe to eat, “The bottom line is that the seafood is as safe to consume now as it was before the spill,” Dickey said. “We’re back to background levels. We were in the fall (of 2010) shortly after the spill dissipated.”

Sounds fine, right? Well – only if you’re OK with that one bit of input. Consider this:

One month ago, Dr. William Sawyer, a Louisiana toxicologist, provided quite the argument that Corexit is deadly to both people and sea life. “Corexit components are also known as deodorized kerosene,” Sawyer said in a written statement for the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery Group,   “With respect to marine toxicity and potential human health risks, studies of kerosene exposures strongly indicate potential health risks to volunteers, workers, sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles and all species which need to surface for air exchanges, as well as birds and all other mammals.” He then explained that Corexit, when broken down, changes the makeup of crude oil and makes it “bioavailable”, meaning it’s easier to absorb by any living things.

Sawyer then conducted tests on much of the seafood we all consume – shrimp, snapper, crab and others – in an effort to see just how much PHC had been absorbed by this sea life. He then compared the results to samples taken before the oil spill. Before the spill, there was “no measurable PHC”. Following the spill, he found tissue concentrations of up to 10,000 parts per million, or 1 percent of the total. This, explained Sawyer, “shows that the absorption was enhanced by the Corexit.”

Here’s what’s so troublesome today and it’s what got me focused on this once again. First, though, take a look at this quick quote from James H. Kirby, III, director of the Department of Geology at the University of South Florida. The report, Findings of Persistency of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Residual Tar Product Sourced from Crude Oil Released during the Deepwater Horizon (and note the very last sentence):

Oil range organics (ORO) tests were done on 23 samples. Compared to the Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) or carcinogenic exposure limit for PAH analytes listed as coal tar derivatives, 90% of the positively identified analytes exceeded the IDLH limit. The use of ultraviolet light equipment in the field showed distinct fluorescent responses to illumination by a 370nm UV light source. UV light equipment was found to be very efficient in identifying tar product on the beach for evaluating the visual level of contamination on the beach. Fluorescent responses from tar product found in the field and laboratory created tar product were measured by fluorometry equipment. The collection area was between Waveland, MS and Cape San Blas, FL. Most sampling efforts centered on the AL and NW FL coasts.

Today, an article was published in our local newspaper. It reads, in part:

Two people have died and five more remain hospitalized after experiencing flu-like symptoms from a respiratory illness in Southeast Alabama, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The department, along with the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, are investigating the illness, which they described as a “cluster of respiratory illnesses of unknown origin.”  Among the symptoms displayed by the patients are fever, shortness of breath, and cough.

I am NOT saying the two are connected – what I am saying, though, is there’s a reason and until and unless we’re willing to explore the possibilities, we’re serving no purpose whatsoever for those who could be affected in the future due to an unwillingness to accept certain truths right here and right now.

In April 2012, lesions and deformities described as “grotesque” were being reported by Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences. In fact, millions of shrimp and crabs were turning up with no eyes and the belief of many is that it’s all due to the dispersants and oil. And did I mention the ONE media outlet that covered it was Al Jazeera? Meanwhile, BP – in yet another incredible act of stupidity – said  “such deformities were “common” in aquatic life in the Gulf” and that it was caused by bacteria or parasites, even as studies showed it’s all due to the spill. Read it here.

Finally, there are a couple of quotes in recent weeks that bear repeating:

This (read it here):

Six months after the spill ended, anglers began pulling in red snapper with ugly lesions. Tests by University of South Florida scientists verified that chemicals from Deepwater Horizon oil had clogged their livers, causing immune system problems.

And this (read it here)

David Hollander, a chemical oceanographer with USF, “Everywhere the plume went, the die-off went,” Hollander said. The discovery by USF scientists marks yet another sign that damage from the disaster is still being revealed as its third anniversary looms. Although initially some pundits said the spill wasn’t as bad as everyone feared, further scientific research has found that corals in the gulf died. Anglers hauled in fish with tattered fins and strange lesions. And dolphins continue dying. The full implications of the die-off are yet to be seen.


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