BP’s Denial Upended: Gulf Flyover Surveillance Reveals Large Amount of Surface Oil at Deepwater Horizon Site

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We set off a firestorm Wednesday (Aug. 17) when we reported that oil is rising once again from BP’s Macondo Well. We were informed by multiple, credible sources over the weekend and into Monday that BP had hired a fleet of shrimp boats to contain a slick sweeping across the old Deepwater Horizon site. Those reports supported evidence that we had obtained months earlier from our clients at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN): A lab-certified Macondo Well (MC252) fingerprint on fresh oil coming ashore at Breton Island (see link to report below). So we already knew the Macondo Well was likely still discharging oil. We just didn’t know how or how much.

Hours after we posted our initial report on Wednesday, the Associated Press in London ran a story that BP admitted to “investigating a new sheen in the Gulf of Mexico,” but that it was not near “any existing BP operations.”

Only hours after the AP story hit, the Times-Picayune out of New Orleans (my home town) ran an article stating BP’s outright denial. From Mark Schleifstein’s article (posted Aug. 18 at 1:47 p.m.):

No oil is leaking from the capped Macondo well that blew out last year, destroying the Deepwater Horizon floating platform and killing 11 workers, a BP spokesman said Thursday.

BP also has not hired any vessels to clean up any oil in that area of the Gulf of Mexico, said spokesman Daren Beaudo.

A report in a blog written by trial lawyer Stuart Smith of New Orleans on Wednesday claimed that the well was leaking and that BP had hired 40 boats to clean the mess.

A flurry of allegations and denials ensued. “None of this is true,” BP said in a statement. “We inspected our operations and our assets and didn’t find anything,” said BP spokesman Daren Beaudo.

We knew better than to expect any sort of candid response from BP or the Coast Guard who after all denied oil was leaking for a full week after the DH rig sank last year, so we were very pleased when Bonny Schumaker from the California-based nonprofit On Wings of Care (see link to website below) agreed to do a flyover. She took a four-hour flight out to the Deepwater Horizon site yesterday (Aug. 19) with Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) photographers Jonathan Henderson and Tarik Zawia.

They spotted oil – lots of it. So we now have damning photos of oil in the water at the “exact location” of the Deepwater Horizon. Clearly, BP has some explaining to do.

From Mr. Henderson’s blog post on the Gulf Restoration Network website (see link to full report, photos and video below):

…we spotted oil on the surface above the exact location where the Deepwater Horizon and Macondo well are located, in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. …Obviously, from the air I cannot confirm that the oil is BP’s and from [their] Macondo well. I can only report that I spotted oil above that location. I reported this to the National Response Center and had a lengthy conversation with a Coast Guard official. Notice that the oil seems to be clustered in round formations. I have no idea why or how this could happen and neither could the [USCG] official. The formations are clearly rainbow in color and in some cases have also a brownish tint.

Photos from Jonathan Henderson of the Gulf Restoration Network. The caption for the three photos reads: Oily substance on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. While there were no boats or other structures in the vicinity today, rainbow and brown tinted formations could be seen covering the area where BP’s Macondo well is located and the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded and sank in April of 2010. The coordinates are N28 44.20, 88 23.23W.

We will be sampling oil from the scene as soon as possible to establish a chemical fingerprint, which will determine the oil’s origin. As for our report of shrimp boats laying boom, Bonny and her crew were not able to catch them on film. My guess is BP immediately disbanded any cleanup operation it had going when the story broke Thursday morning. What Bonny and her team were able to document is a large amount of surface oil at the “exact location” of the old Deepwater Horizon site.

We will be staying all over this story, and posting new reports and visual documentation as they become available. In the meantime, the public and particularly the people of the Gulf Coast deserve some answers from our federal government.

What’s going on guys?

Read my previous post on fresh Macondo oil coming ashore on Breton Island in late March 2011: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/is-bps-macondo-well-site-still-leaking-fresh-oil-on-the-gulf-raises-concerns-and-haunting-memories

Read Jonathan Henderson’s damning report and view his video and photos of oil at the Deepwater Horizon site: http://healthygulf.org/201108201718/blog/bps-oil-drilling-disaster-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/breaking-news-birds-eye-view-grn-spots-oil-near-bps-macondo-well

Check out Bonny Schumaker’s flyover report here at the On Wings of Care website – and please donate to her organization to keep these critical flights going: http://onwingsofcare.org/protection-a-preservation/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2010/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-2011-spring.html

Read the Times-Picayune article on BP’s denial: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2011/08/bp_denies_reports_of_oil_leaki.html

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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