Tar balls and dolphins with missing teeth — the never-ending legacy of BP’s crime


It won’t be long before the world marks the 4th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf, and the worst oil spill in American history. The story has never really left the news, and understandably so. That’s in part because the effort to make BP fully accountable for its sins — both in the civil and the criminal courts — has been a long and arduous process, but one fraught with great consequence for the Gulf Coast.  But there’s another reason to keep Deepwater Horizon in the news: The toxic environmental impacts of the spill are still very much with us, some 46 months later.

For one thing, scientific research — which was practically blockaded by BP and the feds in those early weeks after the spill — is slowly starting to leak out, and the results are even more damning than you might have expected concerning the impact of spilling as much as 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf. This recently published report on the health impacts on dolphins deserves much more attention:

Bottlenose dolphins with missing teeth, lung disease, and abnormal hormone levels were found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico a year after the BP oil spill, US researchers say.

Pneumonia, liver disease and a pregnant female carrying a dead fetus were also reported in the first major study of dolphin health after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Half of the 32 dolphins studied off the coast of Louisiana in August 2011 — a year and four months after the worst oil spill in US history began — were judged to be seriously ill or in danger of dying.

“I’ve never seen such a high prevalence of very sick animals,” said lead author Lori Schwacke, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The wild dolphins were captured in the central Louisiana waters and held briefly for health checks before being released.

The reporter on this piece reached out to BP for a comment, and the British oil giant had the nerve to suggest it was other pollution or environmental factors and not the massive oil spill — or the highly toxic dispersant Corexit that was deployed afterward — that was making these poor dolphins so sick. But the researchers looked closely for other culprits, and could not find any. They compared the Louisiana dolphins to a similar group in Florida far from the spill site, and found the Louisiana dolphins were more stressed, with much higher rates of lung disease. Said one researcher: “What we are seeing is consistent with oil exposure.”

And here’s the other thing: BP’s denials ring false because after all this time, the oil that it unleashed through its epic negligence at the Deepwater Horizon rig continues to bombard the Gulf, every day. A reporter named Tom Young at the Legal Examiner of New Orleans has done yeoman’s work in keeping tabs of the large amount of tar balls and other oil-spill goop that environmental agents find on the beaches not just of Louisiana but Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle on a regular basis. I urge you to check out some of the pictures at his latest report, which also states: 

These numbers thus represent a very limited snapshot of residual oiling on Northwest Florida’s beaches. If one were to extrapolate this data to include all of Florida’s Gulf beaches, as well as the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, it would not be hard to imagine that the problem is much more pervasive and lasting than BP is willing to admit.

Worse, much of this oil material is contaminated with deadly, flesh-eating bacteria. Laypeople should not handle.

It is important to note that these reports of daily oil discoveries come at a time when BP is attempting to renege on its oft-stated “Commitment to the Gulf.” The company is repudiating the Contract it made with area businesses and individuals that compensates them for economic and environmental losses associated with BP’s spill.

Now BP claims that it is the victim. You be the judge.

I could not have made that last point any better myself. This is why we fight — because BP is continuing to duck responsibility, not just for an event that is fading into the past but for an ongoing environmental crisis here in the Gulf that is going to last for years to come. And these events must be highlighted and promulgated to a wider audience — to compel BP to come to grips with the monumental proportions of its crimes and also to guide policy makers in preventing any future calamity.

Read more about the BP oil spill’s impact on dolphins at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/01/bp-oil-spill-update-dolphins-with-missing-teeth-and-lung-disease-found-in-gulf-of-mexico/

Check out Tom Young’s update from the Legal Examiner at: http://neworleans.legalexaminer.com/toxic-substances/the-state-of-the-gulfs-beaches-bp-oil-spill-weekly-pollution-summary-12614-20114/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2014 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • Sure hope the people that got screw by BP & KENNETH FEINBERG WOULD COME together.If would could only pull together and BLOCKAGE BP PLACE OF BUISNESS.Show them we will not back down from them.I’m sure we can get something moving are run then out USA.They didn’t look to destroy evelen lives and destroy seafood buisness way of living.it’s more than time we protest and BLOCKAGE their BUISNESS not let their PEOPLE work!!!

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

Follow Us

© Stuart H Smith, LLC
Share This