BP’s hits just keep on coming for Gulf beaches

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The irony seems rich — but then it always does when the farcical tragedy of the BP oil spill is involved. For the last few days, lawyers for the British oil giant and for the U.S. Justice Department have been locking horns inside a New Orleans courtroom, arguing about the size of the massive 2010 oil spill. The federal attorneys, from everything that I’ve read, have been making a persuasive argument that more than 4 million of the astounding 5 million barrels that spewed forth from the destroyed Deepwater Horizon rig sites to pollute the Gulf of Mexico. BP, which has been caught in a web of lies about the size of the spill since Day One, stubbornly maintains the true figure is only half that much.

Now comes the irony part — while BP was downplaying the damage from Deepwater Horizon fiasco, its toxic oil continued to pound sandy Gulf beaches some 30 months after the rig explosion that killed 11 workers. And the catalyst wasn’t even a major hurricane but a tropical storm — Karen — that fizzled out in every other respect:

Just when you though it was safe to say Tropical Storm Karen came and went without a fuss, islanders found their beach covered in tar balls.

“When the Gulf waters stir up the bottom, it breaks apart on these rocks,” said Grand Isle Street Supervisor Chris Hernandez pointing to a line of rock jetties just of the beach. “Next thing you know, (tar balls) are washing ashore.”

Hernandez says BP tar balls have been washing up on the beach since the massive 2010 spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Every time storm season comes you can expect this to happen. We saw it last year. We saw it the year before. Throughout the storms since then. Before the oil spill, you never seen this before.”

Officials said there was easily 2,000 pounds of tar balls lining the beach at Grand Isle, La., and more of BP’s gunk was coming ashore every day. And this wasn’t the only location to experience oily pollution after the storm:

The amount of oily material picked up from Elmer’s Island was well above the normal 2 pounds per day before the storm, he said.

In addition, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and others walked the beaches Tuesday and found an oil mat/tarball area measuring about 3 by 12 feet and another one nearby at 1 foot by 1 foot; both will be cleaned up Wednesday, he said.

On Wednesday, workers will go to areas of concern like Barataria Bay where oil was left in marshes because it would have caused more harm to remove the oil than to let it be, he said.

I’ve called attention to these tar balls and tar mats in the past — and that’s because they’re important. They’re important because our tests have shown that some of the tar mats that have washed ashore in recent months contained weathered pure petroleum, larded with toxins and capable of sickening someone who comes in contact. But they’re also important because folks along the Louisiana coastline have never seen anything like this before, even in 100 years of oil exploration. It shows yet again the devastating and ongoing consequences of BP’s recklessness, and why the pursuit of justice for the Gulf is still so important.

For the latest on the federal court hearing over the size of the BP oil spill, please read: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2013/10/at_bp_oil_spill_trial_justice.html

To learn more about the tar balls on the beach in Grand Isle, please read: http://www.wwltv.com/news/local/TS-Karen-Leaves-Tar-Balls-Beach-Erosion-On-Grand-Isle-226819361.html

For the Advocate’s coverage of oil pollution after T.S. Karen, check out: http://theadvocate.com/news/7269757-123/pounds-of-oily-material-washed

Read my July 11 post on toxic tar mats: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/bp-oil-still-assaulting-gulf-beaches-getting-more-toxic/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2013 – 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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