Aerial Dispersant Spraying Can’t Hide Oil Slicks Near Deepwater Horizon Site


It’s a hauntingly familiar sight: Airplanes buzzing over the Gulf of Mexico spraying toxic dispersant in a flight path from Breton Sound bearing southeast to the Macondo Prospect, the epicenter of last year’s monster oil spill. Yet despite these regular Corexit sprayings, the oil slicks and sheen persist – visible from the air – in the waters surrounding the Deepwater Horizon site. According to On Wings of Care pilot Bonny Schumaker, who flew over the site on Dec. 9, the surface oil is fanning out “in lines and patches over an area of at least 50 square miles.”

Last month, aerial surveillance footage captured a fleet of huge oil-related vessels, some equipped with ROVs, working the waters above the Macondo Prospect. BP gave the bogus explanation that it’s conducting research on “natural seeps in the area” (see link to my previous post below). It was a typical BP “non-denial denial” – acknowledging the problem but denying any blame – to blunt escalating public concern over fresh oil that’s been reported at the site since Aug. 19. As I’ve mentioned here before, BP was required to conduct a survey of the seafloor prior to drilling in the Macondo Prospect. There is no record of any large natural seeps in the area that has ever been produced. Therefore, we can assume that any seeps that now exist must be tied to the BP disaster and the heavy-handed attempts to cap the gushing well, such as lowering a 70-ton dome over top of it. Those activities are likely to have caused cracks and fissures in the seafloor around the wellhead.

That sort of seafloor leakage cannot be capped, plugged or killed. It will continue until the Macondo Prospect essentially runs dry (see link below to my previous post). According to BP, the prospect was estimated to have contained 50 million barrels before last year’s disaster, which spewed approximately 5 million barrels into the Gulf. You do the math. It ain’t pretty.

New flyover footage from On Wings of Care pilot Bonny Schumaker reveals that the fleet of oil-related vessels is gone, but the oil most definitely is not. From Schumaker’s Dec. 9 flyover report:

…we spotted surface oil sheen more than 20 miles northwest of the former Deepwater Horizon site, and again every few miles from there southward toward the DWH site. …distinct lines and patches of grey-to-silver sheen, some of them stretching for miles.

Photo credit to Brenda Longfellow and Glen Richards & On Wings of Care

And this is just what’s left of the surface oil after the toxic dispersant Corexit has been generously applied from the air. More from Schumaker:

Aerial dispersant planes have continued to conduct almost weekly flights across Breton Sound, over Grand Isle, and out to the Macondo, with the legal blessing of our government and paychecks from the oil industry to spray Corexit to disperse and sink surface oil. Aware of these flights (even as recently as last week), we were prepared to find little or no surface oil; but we were eager to learn if a high level of work activity was continuing. So we were surprised to find not a work vessel in sight, and scattered patches and lines of surface oil almost everywhere we went!

Schumaker also got a grim reminder of the enormous toll being taken on the Gulf’s marine life: 

…just south of the DWH site, still north of where the two relief wells were drilled last year, we saw four bottlenose dolphins within a large surface slick and lines of oil with some globules in it. They looked so large that at first I thought they were sperm whales, but they were almost motionless, floating near the surface. We finally noticed a fin break the surface, and hoped this was normal behavior and not a result of illness from being in that poison.

So let me quickly recap: (1) on Nov. 12, a dozen huge oil-related vessels are spotted working the waters around the Deepwater Horizon site; (2) BP admits to conducting a study of “natural seeps in the area” – seeps that we know did not exist before last year’s massive spill; (3) planes conduct weekly dispersant-spraying flights out to the Macondo Prospect; and (4) the vessels are gone (as of Dec. 9) but the oil continues to fan out – in lines and patches – over a 50-square-mile area.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to know what BP found a mile down on the seafloor surrounding the Macondo Well. My guess is it’s bad news.

Check out Bonny Schumaker’s Dec. 9 flyover report – with startling footage – at the On Wings of Care website:

Read my Nov. 24 post on BP’s admission to new activity out at the Deepwater Horizon site:

Read my previous post on where the new Macondo oil is coming from:

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • what can we as american’s do.In stead of occupy Wall street, should we have occupy the Gulf. and spraying more toxins of the does it effect wildlife.OMG!!!! we have to end this and take control cause the government wont of BP. Too much at risk.

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

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