You can see giant cranes clawing and tearing away at the fragile shoreline, and huge floating “trash depots” that haul away tons of oil-soaked soil and marsh grasses and other debris from the spill. It’s an ugly scene that BP and the federal government would rather keep out of view – so you’ll definitely want to take a look.
On May 7, scientist and pilot Dr. Bonny Schumaker flies Bri Bernik, a marsh ecologist, and filmmaker Bess Carrick (who shoots the video) to the Barataria Bay area, roughly 20 miles northeast of Grand Isle, to investigate reports of oil washing ashore. The group observes a blundering, heavy-handed cleanup operation taking place in the northern reaches of Barataria – specifically the ecologically fragile area known as Bay Jimmy.
Bernik fears the inept remediation effort there may cause large pieces of the barrier island and marsh (shown in video) to simply wash away, as the grasses that keep the earth in place are ripped out and hauled away in a huge flotilla of dumpsters. According to Bernik, we need to think of the marsh as one interconnected plant so tearing away at the fringe of the marsh (or the shoreline) damages the entire system. She explains the troubling situation on the ground:
Bay Jimmy is still one of the most heavily oiled marsh sites after the spill. And the techniques they’re using to cleanup that oil are mechanical cleanup and manual cleanup where they rake and breakup the oiled marsh materials, and then they try to remove all of it. So in the process, they’re taking away a lot of marsh substrates. And the problem with that is Louisiana marshes are highly erosional environments. And that’s the biggest problem we face in trying to take care of our marshes.
Of course, the cranes ripping away at the shoreline are inflicting manmade erosion that is irreparably damaging the marshes – and will eventually cause large pieces of the barrier island to fall away into the water and wash away.
The problems here show no sign of stopping anytime soon. Oil mattes still linger just offshore, lining the entire length of beaches along many of Louisiana’s barrier islands – and that oil comes ashore during storms. In closing, Bernik and Schumaker give this unsettling prognosis:
Bernik: I forsee there being an interdive process of marsh loss, where we remove the oil on the shoreline, we have a storm pushing up new oil and then we have to remove that.
Schumaker: Yep, we’re going to pull away a whole marsh to get away from the embarrassment of what’s there in the water.
Bernik: And what they should have done was focused on a method of recovery in the first place.
Apparently, BP’s answer to oil-soaked marshes is to use huge cranes to shred them into oblivion. I guess the logic is that people can’t complain about oily marshes if they aren’t there anymore.
Thanks to Bess Carrick for shooting this important video and sharing it with us.
Read more about Dr. Bonny Schumaker’s environmental non-profit group, On Wings of Care, here: http://www.onwingsofcare.org/
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