Worst fears about BP oil washing ashore after Isaac are coming true


Last week, I reported on this blog there were early indications that Hurricane Isaac had indeed whipped up some of as much as 1 million gallons of BP’s spill oil that remain in the Gulf, assaulting beaches from Florida to Louisiana with tarballs and other goo most likely linked to the 2010 catastrophe.

Tonight, there are growing indications that the Gulf’s beaches are under assault from BP yet again:

The state is closing a 12-mile section of Gulf coastline from Caminada Pass to Pass Fourchon after Hurricane Isaac washed up large areas of oil and tar balls at the location of one of the worst inundations of BP oil during the Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010. Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, said agency crews surveying damage from Isaac discovered large sections of viscous oil and tar balls floating along the coast from the beach to one mile offshore between Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge, just west of Grand Isle, to Pass Fourchon.

“It’s a very large mass that is viscous but hasn’t coalesced into tar mats yet,” Barham said. “But the Elmer’s Island beaches are littered with tar balls of every size, from eraser size to the size of baseballs.”

This is not just an inconvenience — it’s a serious environmental threat:

Oil from that event often mixed with sand as it neared the coast and sank to the silty floor of the nearshore Gulf. But heavy weather has regularly dredged it up from the soft bottom, where waves carry it to the beach and even push it inside the marsh. The persistence of the oil has kept clean-up crews working along the coast since the April 2010 spill.

While the most toxic parts of raw oil quickly dissipate, the tar mats, tar balls and viscous sludge that reappear after storms remain a threat to fish, wildlife and humans, state authorities said. They can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known carcinogens that can also disrupt endocrine systems in both humans and wildlife.

Here’s another report:

The U.S. Coast Guard says it has been taking reports of oiled wildlife in the wake of Hurricane Isaac. 

  “One dead oiled brown pelican, one dead oiled clapper rail, one dead oiled common moorhen, and three live oiled wildlife were recovered near Myrtle Grove,” according to a news release from the Coast Guard. 

The dead birds were taken to a rehabilitation center in Belle Chasse.  Investigators will perform necropsies to determine the cause of death.


Oil is washing up along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, confirming concerns that the storm could churn up oil in the Gulf of Mexico. A Greenpeace research team took samples from beaches along the Alabama coast on September 2, including from an area with hundreds of tar balls in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

These reports are frustrating, but it’s hardly surprising. Since Isaac made landfall over Louisiana last week, I’ve been receiving reports from my environmental consultant, Marco Kaltofen of Boston Chemical Consulting, and others who are interested in the natural splendor of the Gulf. They are all documenting large numbers of tarballs and other pollution on critical beaches.  Note: It is very important to document these post-Issac environmental conditions which may relate to the oilspill by calling the national response center at 800-424-8802.

This photo was taken on Sept. 3, 2012 by Trish Williams on Pensacola Beach, FL. Now that’s a tar ball:

Post Isaac staining on Pensacola Beach Aug. 29, 2012. Sorry for dark photo, Isaac just won’t leave.

Windblown black tarballs collecting behind a sign in the dunes at Calhoun Beach Access, Destin:

Finally, this shows result of field test for hydrocarbons, left vial is Destin sand, right is a clean sand sample, yellow indicates possible hydrocarbons.

They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words. The evidence is piling up all around the Gulf — Isaac,  for all the heartache and flooding and power outages that it’s brought to the region, is also dredging up the horrors of Deepwater Horizon all over again. I will continue to bring you updates on this situation throughout the week.

To read more about Louisiana closing 12 miles if beaches, please go to: http://www.nola.com/hurricane/index.ssf/2012/09/la_officials_close_12_miles_of.html

To read about oiled wildlife, check out: http://www.wwl.com/pages/14150018.php?contentType=4&contentId=11362073

To check out Greenpeace’s report about oil on beaches in Alabama, please check out: http://greenpeaceblogs.com/2012/09/03/photos-oil-washing-up-on-the-gulf-coast-after-hurricane-isaac/

© Smith Stag, LLC 2012 – All Rights Reserved

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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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