Unfortunately, every day seems to bring new reminders that the environmental nightmare unleashed by BP into the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 2010 is not over. Sometimes, these things practically hit you in the face…or wash up on your beach. In the more than two years since millions of barrels of oil spewed forth into the Gulf from BP’s Macondo mishap, I’ve joined with other environmental activists in warning that the region’s frequent tropical storms and hurricanes were likely to stir up oil — and re-create some of the horrors of the Deepwater Horizon all over again.
Today, just like the meteorologist uttered in the movie “The Perfect Storm”…it’s happening:
PASCAGOULA, Mississippi — The meandering Tropical Storm Debby shut down much of the Gulf Island National Seashore, but its waves and wind also may be churning up tar balls, officials said Monday.
Dan Brown, park superintendent, said he doesn’t know if new oiling has occurred because park personnel have been withdrawn from the islands as Debby lingered in the Gulf of Mexico.
“We don’t know yet,” Brown said of oiled material turning up on the islands.
The reality. as the article notes, is that oil has continually washed up on these Mississippi beaches since the BP spill, with the difference being that Debby is likely to make matters worse. But that’s not the only reason to fear tropical weather down here in the Gulf even more than usual. One factor that made storms like 2005’s Katrina so destructive is that Louisiana has lost so much of its protective natural barrier of wetlands, due to factors like overdevelopment, the over-engineering of the Mississippi River, and manmade pollution. Now, you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that there’s evidence that BP’s wanton disregard for the Gulf has served to make matters worse:
The 2010 BP oil spill accelerated the loss of Louisiana’s delicate marshlands, which were already rapidly disappearing before the largest oil spill in U.S. history, a new study reports.
As the oil washed into the marshlands, it coated and smothered thick grasses at their edge. When the grass died, deep roots that held the soil together also died, leaving the shore banks of the marshlands to crumble, said Brian Silliman, the University of Florida researcher who led the new study.
“We already knew that erosion leads to permanent marsh loss, and now we know that oil can exacerbate it,” Silliman said.
In Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, oiled marshes eroded at about twice the rate of non-oiled marshes, receding nearly 10 feet per year, Silliman’s team found. “Doubling the rate of erosion is a huge number,” said Zoe Hughes, a marsh researcher at Boston University who was not involved in the research. “It’s very significant in areas where you have erosion anyway.”
It’s important to understand the seriousness of this. These wetlands are what stands between New Orleans and the next Katrina. The marshlands that were destroyed by BP, the scientists found, are simply not coming back. The truth is that Deepwater Horizon disaster upended the ecology of the Gulf in many ways, both large and small. This hasn’t been well-publicized, but my colleague the environmental scientist Marco Kaltofen shared with me an article from the February 2012 Environmental Health Perspectives. There’s a PDF link to the report here. It deals with the issue of contaminated shrimp after the BP spill, and of course the truth is much worse than the government wants you to know.
The researchers found that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deviated from its past practices — and the methods used by other leading worldwide environmental agencies — in carrying out its 2010 seafood risk assessment of the spill. They said the FDA’s findings underestimated how much seafood is consumed by residents of the Gulf Coast, understated the risks of contaminated shrimp to women and children, failed to study the health impact of naphthalene, a major component of the oil, and committed other errors that would tend to misstate the cancer risks.
Folks, this flawed study didn’t take place in a vacuum. Rather, it is part of a disturbing pattern in which the federal government was willing allies with BP in racing to assure Gulf Coast residents that everything — including the seafood they eat — was back to normal, and to understate or even cover-up anything to the contrary. But their cover-up was doomed from the start. The evidence that BP’s recklessness created an absolute worst-case scenario is not that hard to find in 2012. Sometimes, you don’t need a weatherman to see which way the tar balls are floating.
To read more about oil from the 2010 BP spill churned up by tropical storm Debby, go to:
To learn how the BO oil spill destroyed marshland in the Gulf, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/bp-oil-spill-hastened-loss-of-louisiana-marshes-study-says/2012/06/25/gJQAM8bJ2V_story.html
To read more about the report on underreported contamination of shrimp, check out: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=13828f98ad08250d&mt=application/pdf&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui%3D2%26ik%3Dc510b69e4c%26view%3Datt%26th%3D13828f98ad08250d%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dsafe%26zw&sig=AHIEtbTSy8W8dKYkkRjh5lYHZ2zRvxSHSg&pli=1
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