Thanks BP – for Making Louisiana’s Beaches Among the Most Polluted in America


I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to BP for fouling our beaches here in Louisiana. Thanks guys, you really out-did yourselves with the oil and the dispersant, the countless tar balls and the massive tar mats that linger just offshore. As an avid sailor and life-long beachlover, I derive extra-special pleasure in knowing that our beaches – following last year’s 200-million-gallon oil spill – now rank among the very dirtiest in the nation.

According to a new study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Louisiana has the highest rate of contaminated beachwater of any state (that has shoreline). In 2010, the Year of the Spill, 37 percent of the beachwater samples taken in Louisiana exceeded public health samples. Thirty-seven percent, that’s more than one in every three samples (for the mathematically challenged). Even Ohio, which borders the heavily industrialized shores of Lake Erie, came in a distant second with 21 percent – and the rest fell off dramatically from there (see full report below).

The NRDC report, Testing the Waters 2011, frames the ugly scene:

Over the course of two months, approximately 170 million gallons of oil and 200,000 metric tons of methane gas gushed into Gulf waters, affecting approximately 1,000 miles of shoreline. More than a year later, a sorry legacy of enduring damage, people wronged, and a region scarred remains. As of the end of January, 83 miles of shoreline remained heavily or moderately oiled, and tar balls and weathered oil continue to wash ashore.

Miles of Louisiana coastline remain black with BP’s oil, and reports of tar balls and tar mats littering beaches are common to this day.

The NRDC study reminds us of just how big of a pounding the Gulf Coast – Louisiana in particular – has taken since the start of the BP disaster in April 2010. It’s been a brutal and relentless assault with oil washing ashore week after week, leaving layers of oil buried on our beaches and killing large swaths of delicate marshland. And for those of you who think this nightmare is over, the NRCD report provides a much-needed wake-up call:

…many beaches in the region have issued oil spill advisories, closures, and notices since April of last year. As of June 15, 2011, there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories, and closures at Gulf Coast beaches since the spill. Louisiana has been hit the hardest, with 3,420 days as of June 15, 2011, in that state, while there were 2,245 days as of June 15, 2011, in Florida, 2,148 days in Mississippi, and 1,661 days in Alabama.

Some of Louisiana’s most popular beaches have been closed since the early days of the spill, sustaining irreparable damage. For example, Fourchon Beach – bookended by Timbalier Bay from the west and Grand Isle from the east – will never be the same. From the study:

All four segments of Fourchon Beach in Lafourche Parish have been closed since May 7, 2010, and will probably remain closed throughout 2011. The oil spill closures at one section of Grand Isle Beach and all four sections of Grand Isle State Park Beach in
Jefferson Parish were not lifted until this year.

As for a visual, here are a couple of photos from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that show the devastation on Fourchon Beach.

But, of course, it’s not just the appearance of the beaches that makes us sick. The NRDC reminds us that there are serious health effects tied to human exposure to oil and its toxins, hence the record-breaking number of beach closures, advisories, etc.:

State and local officials took these actions in response to oil on beaches and in coastal waters because exposure to this oil can cause a variety of adverse human health effects, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, eye, throat or skin irritation, difficulty breathing, and even increased cancer or neurological risks for long-term exposure.

Those symptoms are afflicting thousands of residents up and down the Gulf Coast – from cleanup workers to charter boat fishing captains to garden-variety beach-goers. The ranks of the sick are swelling, and many are finding it difficult to find doctors willing and able to treat them. Furthermore, there’s an enormous economic impact to these beach closings, according to the NRDC report:

While most of the advisories, closures, and notices that were issued last year due to the oil spill were lifted by the end of the year, cleanup crews are still at work. And the spill is still interfering with trips to the beach as oil continues to wash ashore at Gulf Coast beaches in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi.

Besides being a beloved source of recreation for local residents, tourism at these beaches is an important part of the region’s economy. In 2004 alone, ocean tourism and recreation contributed approximately $15.4 billion to the GDP of the five Gulf states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas), so revenue lost from oil spill beach action days could be significant.

This report, and others, indicate that the spill’s impacts continue to wreak havoc on our shorelines and our local economies. That directly contradicts the blather coming from BP and its government boosters. Just yesterday, the Associated reported that “BP is arguing that most victims of last year’s Gulf oil spill should not get any more payouts for future losses because the hardest-hit areas are recovering and the economy is growing.” But that’s another ball of wax for another post. Check back in soon, as we’ll be weighing in shortly on that ridiculousness.

Read more on the NRDC study here:

See the full NRDC Testing the Waters 2011 report: ttw2011

© Smith Stag, LLC 2011 – All Rights Reserved

1 comment

  • If tears could clean it up, I’m sure that enough tears have been shead throughout the Gulf Coast States and residents to have cleaned up this mess twice! God help the marine wildlife endure and die quickly without any more suffering!

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

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