Florida beach laced with BP’s toxic oily goop


It was just earlier this month that I told you about tests that Marco Kaltofen — the chemical engineer who has worked with me on analyzing samples from the BP oil spill since the early days after the 2010 accident — conducted on a tar mat that came ashore on a Louisiana barrier island called Isle Grand Terre. He reported that the giant blob — which caused state officials to close the surrounding area to commercial fishing — was pure concentrated petroleum product, and highly toxic. He called it “a superconcentrated mess of the most toxic components of the original crude.”

That would be alarming if it were just one isolated wash-up on one island not far from where the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010. However, the reality of the Gulf more than three years after the BP disaster is that tar balls and other buried deposits are ticking pollution bombs that are buried — and sometimes washing ashore — up and down the Gulf, from Florida to Texas. That’s tragic but not surprising, considering that some 5 million barrels of crude spewed into the Gulf from the damaged rig.

Now, officials from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) have released the results of a recent inspection and testing on Gulf beaches south of downtown Pensacola, near Fort McRee and on Sugar Island. Its tests confirmed that the oily blobs that laced the sand under the beach — as pictured at the top of the post — are MC-252 crude, the oil that spilled from the Macondo field when BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploded.

Here are some of the key passages of its report, which is loaded with bureaucratic jargon but reveal that oil from the BP spill has infested this once pristine Florida beach:

 In segment FLES1-037 a small band of buried SRBs was found about 5 feet offshore at 30° 19.682’, -87° 18.957’. The monitoring team was able to sift through the top few inches of sand to recover numerous buried SRBs. However, the team was not able to fully mitigate all the buried SRBs and NRC Report #1054786 was filed, indicating that some buried SRBs remain at the reported coordinates.

In segment FLES1-080, the team located and recovered several large mat chunks up to 26 cm in diameter at 30° 19.659’, -87° 19.405’. The chunks were found 2 feet offshore buried beneath 1-4 inches of sand and were recovered using sifting nets. At first the mat chunks looked like peat, but upon closer inspection it was clear that it was MC-252 with some vegetation stuck to the surface. The chunks had the characteristic rusty-brown MC-252 color but were a darker color in some areas where the pieces were buried in an anaerobic environment. While the team was able to recover most of the buried chunks, more pieces could remain, therefore NRC Report #1054807 was filed.

 I should note that it’s about 250 miles or so, as the crow flies, from the beaches of Pensacola to Isle Grand Terre, where the tar mat tested by Marco Kaltofen came ashore. That should give yoo some idea of the wide extent of the damage to the Gulf that was caused by BP. The irony is that BP and the federal government recently announced that they were ending their cleanup efforts in Florida, as well as Alabama and Mississippi. But with hurricane season brewing and the likelihood that new storms will stir up these toxic, oily deposits, maybe that decision should be reconsidered.

 To read the FDEP monitoring report, please go to: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=1401024eb1f93aa7&mt=application/pdf&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?ui%3D2%26ik%3Dc510b69e4c%26view%3Datt%26th%3D1401024eb1f93aa7%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dsafe%26zw&sig=AHIEtbTg5uT0ogo3DvxrB9dO-A6fB9crSQ

Check out my July 11 blog post about testing on tar mats at Isle Grand Terre at: https://www.stuarthsmith.com/bp-oil-still-assaulting-gulf-beaches-getting-more-toxic/

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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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