Gulf Oil Spill Continues to Cause Death, Illness
April 23, 2013
CBS & AP & Jacob Chamberlain / Common Dreams & Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams & Emily Dugan / The Independent
On eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, lawsuits and a new report reveal a litany of BP lies and government collusion in the oil 'clean-up' as the Gulf and coastal residents continue to suffer from the legacy of the blow-out, explosion and massive spill. Meanwhile, chemicals used to disperse Gulf of Mexico spill are being blamed for mysterious dolphin die-offs, the appearance of shrimp without eyes and lingering human illnesses.
Florida AG Files Suit Against BP Over 2010 Spill
CBS & AP
TALLAHASSEE (April 20, 2013) -- On this day three years ago, BP’S Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and killed 11 crewmen, ignited a massive fireball and left behind a gushing open well that ended in the largest offshore oil spill in US history.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi used the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to file a lawsuit against oil company BP and Halliburton over the spill, which fouled 1,100 miles of beaches and marsh along the Gulf coast.
The 40-page lawsuit was filed in federal court in Panama City.
The suit includes several counts under federal, state and maritime law and focuses on Florida’s economic losses. Bondi argues that the 2010 spill cost the state a variety of tax revenues.
The state also seeks punitive damages.
TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
'People's History' of Gulf Oil Disaster Reveals Deadly Truth Behind Dispersant Corexit
Jacob Chamberlain / Common Dreams
(April 19, 2013) -- Not only is the chemical dispersant that was used to "clean up" the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010 extremely dangerous, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely "appear invisible" all the while exacerbating levels of toxicity in the Gulf waters, according to a report released Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, by the Government Accountability Project.
According to the report, Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf: Are Public Health and Environmental Tragedies the New Norm for Oil Spill Cleanups?, Corexit -- the dispersant chemical dumped into the Gulf of Mexico by oil giant BP and the U.S. government in the spill's aftermath -- was widely applied "because it caused the false impression that the oil disappeared."
As GAP states: "In reality, the oil/Corexit mixture became less visible, yet much more toxic than the oil alone. Nonetheless, indications are that both BP and the government were pleased with what Corexit accomplished."
The Corexit/oil combination is highly toxic and will continue to cause "devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem" for a long time into the future, the report warns.
GAP spent 20 months collecting evidence from "over two dozen employee and citizen whistleblowers who experienced the cleanup's effects firsthand," and from extensive Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
"This report is a people's history to rebut a false advertising blitz by BP, enabled by government collusion," stated GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, co-author of the report. "Gulf workers and residents who are still suffering deserve justice, and the public deserves the truth."
"The price for making the spill appear invisible has been deadly," he said. "It is time to stop covering up the truth about the deadly effects of the chemical cover-up Corexit."
"Taken together, the documents and the witnesses' testimony belie repeated corporate and government rhetoric that Corexit is not dangerous. Worse than this, evidence suggests that the cleanup effort has been more destructive to human health and the environment than the spill itself," the group stated Friday.
The report includes first hand accounts from cleanup workers, divers, local doctors, and residents.
The findings also include "higher than normal frequency of seafood mutations," and "pockets of 'dead' ocean areas where life was previously abundant."
"Through their testimony and emerging science, the truth about the spill response's toxic legacy is beginning to surface as the third anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon explosion approaches," GAP stated.
Below is a small selection of some of the voices included in the report:
As an environmental scientist, I look at the way the government and BP are handling, describing and discussing the spill ... [T]he government did not account for the increased toxicity of the combined oil and Corexit.
– Scott Porter, Diver, Marine Biologist
[W]hen a BP representative came up on the speedboat and asked if we need anything, I again explained my concerns about breathing in the Corexit and asked him for a respirator ... He explained 'If you wear a respirator, it is bringing attention to yourself because no one else is wearing respirators, and you can get fired for that.'
– Jorey Danos, Cleanup Worker
What brought all of these individuals into the same pool was the fact that their symptoms were almost identical, and were different from anything that I had ever observed in my 40 plus years as a physician ... However, until people are educated about the symptoms associated with exposure to toxic waste from the spill, we cannot assume they will make the connection. I continue to witness this disconnect and these symptoms on a daily basis.
-- Dr. Michael Robichaux, Physician
They hired people from all over who didn't know about the conditions and real safety hazards, but you did what you had to do; you had to take the job and deal with it because you didn't have money to go home ... There was a safety culture of, 'hush hush, it didn’t happen.'
-- Anonymous Cleanup Worker
EPA and BP knew of the health impacts associated with [Corexit and oil] ... The issue was responding to an oil spill of this magnitude, with unprecedented quantities of Corexit, including novel subsurface application. Gulf coastal communities, and individuals who consume gulf seafood or recreate in the gulf, are the guinea pigs left to deal with the consequences and will be feeling the full effect in years to come.
-- Dr. Wilma Subra, Chemist, MacArthur Genius Award Recipient
Read the full report here.
Chorus of Voices Demands Justice Three Years After BP Gulf Disaster
Andrea Germanos / Common Dreams
(April 20, 2013) -- Saturday marks three years since the blowout of BP's Macondo well and explosion of Transocean's Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico which killed 11 men and spewed 200 million gallons of oil over three months.
It also marks over 1000 days affected communities and ecosystems have been waiting for accountability, justice and full cleanup of the nation's worst oil disaster that left a morbid legacy in its wake.
On Tuesday, a day before the first phase of the BP trial in New Orleans ended, conservation groups joined community members to demand accountability from the oil behemoth.
“Three years after the Gulf was inundated with BP oil, the wildlife, habitats and people of the Gulf are still feeling the effects of the disaster,” National Wildlife Federation’s David Muth, who represented the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Campaign, said.
“In 2012 alone, some 6 million pounds of BP oil was collected from Louisiana’s shorelines and 200 miles of coast remain oiled. We can’t allow BP off the hook for anything less than justice requires -- a full payment for its recklessness so that real restoration of the Gulf’s ecosystem and economy can begin,” Muth said.
“Two years ago, BP promised $1 billion to early restoration to be used in two years. To date, BP has only spent seven percent of the promised total,” added Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of the Gulf Restoration Network. “Despite BP's slick ad campaigns, the Gulf is still hurting and can't wait any longer for restoration. It's time BP be held fully accountable under the law."
Indeed, as The Atlantic's Julie Dermansky has documented, the effects of the oil can still be seen. She writes:
Yet even three years later, the residual effects of the oil spill are still apparent on the Gulf Coast. I covered the BP oil spill from the start, and have gone on documenting the effects of the hardest-hit areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, revisiting those areas over the last week. Below are some of the photos I have taken.
Along the Mississippi coast one can still find tar balls. In Louisiana I observed, among other disturbing signs of the spill, oil sheen along a coastal marsh, and erosion on an island in Barataria Bay sped up by the death of mangrove trees and marsh grass.
On Wednesday, Drue Banta Winters, attorney with the Louisiana governor's office, cited these statistics, the Times-Picayune reports:
• Of Gulf Coast shorelines currently classified as "moderately oiled" or "heavily oiled" by the combined federal/BP response today, 100 percent are along Louisiana's shoreline.
• More than 1,700 sea turtles were found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012, compared to an average 240 stranded sea turtles annually.
• There have been 930 cetaceans -- mostly bottlenosed dolphins and some whales -- stranded in the Gulf between February 2010 and April 2013, including 440 in Louisiana. The historical average is 20 strandings a year.
The National Wildlife Federation added in its report Restoring a Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Three Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster:
• A coral colony seven miles from the wellhead was badly damaged by oil. A recent laboratory study found that a mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef.
• Scientists found that the oil disaster affected the cellular function of the killifish, a common baitfish at the base of the food web. A recent laboratory study found that oil exposure can also harm the development of larger fish such as mahi mahi.
In addition to the oil, the chemical dispersant Corexit has wreaked havoc, and as a report released Friday from the Government Accountability Project detailed, it was knowingly used to make the gushing oil merely "appear invisible" while exacerbating levels of toxicity.
The group warned that the toxic oil/dispersant mix will continue to cause "devastating long-term effects on human health and the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem" for a long time.
And after the Gulf disaster began, marine toxicologist Riki Ott was sounding the alarm on the toxic effects both the oil and Corexit were having on human health.
“After three years," said Patty Whitney of Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing, "the Gulf and its people can’t wait any longer for environmental restoration that supports resilient communities.”
Dead Dolphins and Shrimp with No Eyes Found after BP Clean-up
Emily Dugan / The Independent
(April 14, 2013) -- Hundreds of beached dolphin carcasses, shrimp with no eyes, contaminated fish, ancient corals caked in oil and some seriously unwell people are among the legacies that scientists are still uncovering in the wake of BP's Deepwater Horizon spill.
This week it will be three years since the first of 4.9 billion barrels of crude oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico, in what is now considered the largest marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. As the scale of the ecological disaster unfolds, BP is appearing daily in a New Orleans federal court to battle over the extent of compensation it owes to the region.
Infant dolphins were found dead at six times average rates in January and February of 2013. More than 650 dolphins have been found beached in the oil spill area since the disaster began, which is more than four times the historical average.
Sea turtles were also affected, with more than 1,700 found stranded between May 2010 and November 2012 -- the last date for which information is available. On average, the number stranded annually in the region is 240.
Contact with oil may also have reduced the number of juvenile bluefin tuna produced in 2010 by 20 percent, with a potential reduction in future populations of about 4 percent. Contamination of smaller fish also means that toxic chemicals could make their way up the food chain after scientists found the spill had affected the cellular function of killifish, a common bait fish at the base of the food chain.
Deep-sea coral, some of which is thousands of years old, has been found coated in oil after the dispersed droplets settled on the sea's bottom. A recent laboratory study found that the mixture of oil and dispersant affected the ability of some coral species to build new parts of a reef.
Doug Inkley, a senior scientist for the US National Wildlife Federation and author of a report published this week on wildlife affected by the spill, said: "These ongoing deaths -- particularly in an apex predator such as the dolphin -- are a strong indication that there is something amiss with the Gulf ecosystem."
Scientists believe that the 1.8 million gallons of dispersant, sprayed as part of the clean-up, have cemented the disaster's toxic effect on ocean life and human health. The dispersant, called Corexit, caused what some scientists have described as "a giant black snowstorm" of tiny oil globules, which has been carried around the ocean in plumes and has now settled on the sea floor. A study last November found the dispersant to be 52 times more toxic than the oil itself.
Larry McKinney, director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, said: "Before we depend on dispersants to get rid of oil and get it out of sight, we need to understand what it can do in the open ocean. We're told to keep oil off the shore and away from estuaries, but we've not dealt with something like this before, that's in the open ocean and gone from top to bottom, affecting the whole water column."
Scientists believe the addition of dispersants to the oil made it more easily absorbed through the gills of fish and into the bloodstream. Dr William Sawyer, a toxicologist, has studied concentrations of petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) in edible fish and shellfish in the region.
Samples before the spill had no measurable PHC in the tissue, whereas fish tested in recent months show tissue concentrations as high as 10,000 parts per million, or 1 percent of all tissue. He said: "The study shows that the absorption [of the oil] was enhanced by the Corexit."
BP says the dispersants it used are "government approved and safe when used appropriately", and that extensive testing has shown seafood in the Gulf states is safe to eat.
Louisiana State University's Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences has found sea life in the Gulf with lesions and deformities that it believes may be linked to the use of dispersants. These include shrimp with no eyes and crabs with no eyes or without claws. BP claims these abnormalities are "common in marine life", had been seen in the region before, and are caused by bacterial infections or parasites.
In a blow to the region's tourism, tar balls continue to wash up along the affected coastline, which now stretches from the beaches of Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Marco Kaltofen, a chemical engineer at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said: "We have a reservoir of petroleum and petroleum-contaminated sediment that lies just offshore of several Gulf beaches. Every time we have a storm, all of a sudden you're getting these tar balls washing up."
It is not just wildlife that scientists believe has been affected. Michael Robichaux, a Louisiana doctor, has documented 113 patients who he thinks were made ill by exposure to chemicals associated with the spill. Their most common symptoms include headaches, memory loss, fatigue, irritability, vertigo, nausea, blurred vision and insomnia.
One of Dr Robichaux's patients, Jorey Danos, 32, is a formerly healthy father of three. Since working for BP on the clean-up, he says he has experienced serious ill health, including severe abdominal and joint pain that has left him walking with a cane. Several doctors, including a neurologist, have put his condition down to the neurological impact of exposure to the chemicals related to the spill.
Mr Danos said: "I worked 21 days in one of the boats skimming the oil and we were sprayed directly with Corexit from above on three occasions. My skin came out with bumps and burning and I started having breathing problems.
"When a speedboat with BP representatives came by, I asked for a respirator but they said no, because it would lead to bad media attention. Now I'm still dealing with it three years later."
BP said all workers were provided with safety training and protective equipment and would have had the opportunity to join a class action settlement.
Geoff Morrell, BP's head of US communications, said: "No company has done more to respond to an industrial accident than BP has in the US Gulf of Mexico."
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