BP hit by health claims over Gulf of Mexico clean-up


Residents who helped in the work along the US’s southern coast are now suffering from health problems, while boat owners whose vessels were used in the clean-up went unpaid and their craft damaged, according to a suit filed in New Orleans.

The legal claim targets BP and the well’s co-owners Andarko Petroleum and Mitsui. Nalco Holding, which made the dispersants used, is also named as a defendant.

The suit, which is seeking punitive damages as well as compensation for bodily harm and unpaid wages, comes less than a month before the first anniversary of the explosion at the Macondo well that killed 11 people and triggered the worst spill in US history.

“Some of these diseases and conditions may be immediately evident, and others can appear months or years later,” according to the lawsuit. A spokesman for BP could not be reached for immediate comment.

BP shares were under pressure earlier this week amid reports the US Department of Justice is considering manslaughter charges against the oil company’s management, including former Chief Executive Tony Hayward.

The US authorities announced a criminal investigation into the accident last summer and there have been several other inquiries into BP’s role in the explosion on April 20.

BP, Transocean, the contractor which operated the well, and Halliburton, the US company that helped cement the well, were all apportioned blame in January’s official White House report into the explosion. The Department of Justice has said its investigation is ongoing.

The lawsuit alleges that 1.8-million gallons of chemical dispersants were injected into the Gulf of Mexico’s waters or spread over it. According to the claim, people have since fallen ill after coming into contact with the chemicals contained in the dispersant.

BP, which is currently involved in a bitter fight over its plans for a tie-up in Russia with Rosneft, faces more than 350 lawsuits from a mixture of businesses and individuals claiming damages for both physical and economic harm relating to the spill. BP last week contested claims from cities in the southern state of Alabama as well as states in Mexico that it owed them compensation because of tax revenues lost to the spill.

Despite the controversies its has faced in the US over the past 12 months, the man who runs BP’s North American operations said this week that the company plans to start deepwater drilling again in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are working constructively and engaging with regulators to make sure that as we meet those new regulatory requirements we get back to work in the Gulf of Mexico as well,” said Lamar McKay, President and Chairman of BP America.

The spill will cost BP about $40 billion, the company has estimated.

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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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