Oil from the BP oil spill has reached the coast of Louisiana and the first oiled bird was found. The most recent update from NOAA on the spill outlines the threat and projects the main slick will reach coastal wetlands in the region this weekend:

Today the Deepwater Horizon incident declared a Spill of National Significance (SONS).  A SONS is defined as, “a spill that, due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response effort, is so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local, and responsible party resources to contain and clean up the discharge” and allows greater federal involvement.

(see the full size trajectory map here)

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This is far from the first major oil spill in this region.

The largest oil spill in North America occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. The 200- foot-deep exploratory well, Ixtoc I, blew out on June 3, 1979, in the Bay of Campeche, Mexico, releasing 10,000 – 30, 000 barrels (0.4 – 1.2 million gallons) per day for nine months. Nearly 500 dispersant air sorties were flown in Mexico.

Manual cleanup in Texas was aided by storms. Though the blowout preventer (BOP, valve designed to seal off a wellhead) failed, injection of metal and concrete balls into the well slowed the release. By the time the well was brought under control in March 1980 by drilling two relief wells to relieve pressure, an estimated 113 million to over 300 million gallons of oil had spilled (10 times the amount of oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez). Oil travelled 800 miles to the north, oiling more than 150 miles of shoreline in Texas and unknown miles of shoreline in Mexico.

And according to NOAA “more than 250 oil-related pollution incidents were reported in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, releasing an estimated total of 8 million gallons of oil directly into inland waterways and wetlands. Because many spills went unreported and others were never attributed to a specific source, the actual amount of oil released into the environment will never be known. Shallow nearshore areas, coastal and inland wetlands, and sand beaches were among the numerous habitats impacted by these spills.”

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Meanwhile, NOAA scientists now think the rate of oil flow out of the well could be five times higher than originally though:

Estimates of the release rate increased to 5000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day based on surface observations and reports of a newly discovered leak in the damaged piping on the sea floor.

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The spill will at the very least, shut down the regions highly lucrative fisheries for months, possibly for years.  Fishermen are getting involved in cleanup efforts hoping to save their livelihoods and looking for new work.

About 1,000 angry and frustrated fishermen packed an elementary school gymnasium here Friday afternoon to receive training in how to clean up the oil spill that was creeping up on the nearby coastline. They were hoping to be hired by BP, the company blamed for the spill and responsible for response efforts.

Life in this coastal community centers on seafood — mullet, shark, shrimp and oysters. From May to September, dozens of boats haul shrimp here from the Gulf of Mexico. But the shrimp season was halted prematurely this week, only two days after the Louisiana Legislature had called for an early start to the season.

If the fishing jobs disappear this season, those who make their living on the water may be facing a cruel occupational twist: forced to seek employment with the company they blame for the spill.

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“Environmental President” Obama gave a slippery response to a question about the spills impact on his new initiative to expand offshore drilling:

“I continue to believe that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall strategy for energy security,” Mr. Obama said on Friday, addressing concerns about whether the administration would continue with its plan to increase drilling in the Gulf.

Even so, he said, “the local economies and livelihoods of the people of the Gulf Coast as well as the ecology of the region are at stake.”

 

15 Responses to BP oil spill reaches coast, NOAA declares it a SONS, fisherman in a tight spot, Obama still supporting more domestic drilling

  1. Scott Dziadzio says:

    Dear Fox and Friends

    Woke up this morning seeing the first birds effected by the BP oil spill, what a shame. I was to young or uninterested in the Exxon Valdez disaster other than making jokes about a “Drunken Sea Captain”. This should really hit home for everybody, they’re so worried about the winds pushing the slick inland into the eco estuaries and spawning grounds, just think “hurricane season is just around the corner”, now thats a catalyst for a pure ecological disaster not that it isn’t already.

    The BP oil rig had no remote shut off valve installed on it. Would you lease/buy a running car with no key to shut it off? Lets not forget a big hats off to our Goverment for slacking once again, first Katrina and now this. Poor Louisiana, it must have a big bulls eye on it. Whats next,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,?

    Jobs are hard enough to find as it is, and now due to shear stupidity more people are going to lose thier jobs for a completely avoidable situation, yet bitter sweet jobs to clean this mess up will be created for the unemployed, go figure

    Thanks for listening to my rant, in the words of Chevy Chase: “HOLY SH*T, WHERE”S THE TYLENOL” I need a biggin.

    Scott Dziadzio
    Margate, Florida

  2. Phil M says:

    Scott I see that BP won the greepeace coveted ‘Emerald Paintbrush’ award for worst greenwash of 2008.

    http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/bps-wins-coveted-emerald-paintbrush-award-worst-greenwash-2008-20081218

    BP – Beyond Petroleum……. well..about 5% really, 7% if you count bio fuels. C’mon we are REALLY trying! I promise.

  3. Pat Moffitt says:

    The real concern for me is that clean up will become a political media circus. There are times when the best course of action is to do nothing especially when dealing with wetlands. We are throwing away everything we have learned about spill response. Cleanup crews tramping through sensitive marshlands, and the use of hot water sprays and surfactants can do more damage than the oil. Plenty of studies showing you can double the recovery period with the ill considered clean up actions. Sec Salazar is already calling for “BP to clean up every drop of oil.” This is politics not science. Lets be careful here. (Gulf wetlands have the ability to not only survive the spill but degrade the oil with much greater efficiency that one would believe reading the press accounts.)

    Anyone interested in a good overview of the science see the National Academies Oil in the Sea III (2003)

    Remember it is not just about the amount of oil spilled, it is the type, distance off shore, weathering, weather, dose, biota type and resistance, season etc. One cannot make Valdez comparisons by quantity.

    Hysteria can make us waste resources— ex dolphins and whales are not high risk creatures- don’t focus here. Grass marshes have incredible resilience much more than mangroves. Kuwait spill show corals are tougher than first thought. Focus, Focus, Focus- use resources wisley.

    Another note – the largest spill(s) in US history were from German UBoat torpedoes in 1942 releasing some 175 million gallons of crude and refined product off the coast of NYC to the outer banks. Tar balls remained for some time but it did not kill the ecosystem. We need perspective without which we take action that do more harm than good

    This oil spill is certainly not a good thing but to call it apocalyptic is incorrect. (I could argue any number of coastal threats to the environment are far more important- habitat loss/ alteration, bycatch, sediment budget disruption, eutrophication, MSX/Dermo disease etc. If oil is catastrophic what do we call these issues?) This spill using similar Gulf bechmark has a 6 month to 3 year window for recovery.The issues of habitat, MSX etc go on and on year after year with no attention and no funding.

    We focus on the oil spill impact to shrimp fisheries (and yes shrimp are one of those organisms initially hard hit) But there may be no greater environmental abuse than the Gulf shrimp fishery which takes 10 pounds of juvenile bycatch per pound of shrimp landed.

    A final note if one looks at threats of oil spills then the the largest is from the super tankers for the reasons outlined in the NAS study. Without offshore drilling in proximity of refining capacity we actually increase the oil risk. The issues are always more complicated than first perceived. Am I using this to justify the spill -no- but we need all the information to make informed decisions as well as context.

    Am I stating this to justify the spill- NO- simply a display of frustration because we continue to demonstrate we do not understand the most serious environmental risks and challenges.

  4. Phil M says:

    The real concern for me is that clean up will become a political media circus.

    I agree, the conservatives are certainly trying to downplay it arent they? Nothing to see here eh?

    http://www.climateshifts.org/?p=5256
    http://www.grist.org/article/2010-05-01-what-are-conservatives-saying-about-the-gulf-oil-disaster/

    There are times when the best course of action is to do nothing especially when dealing with wetlands.

    Err, you wouldnt happen to be a BP spokeman would you Pat?

    Valdez = 100,000 to as many as 250,000 seabirds, at least 2,800 sea otters, approximately 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 bald eagles, and 22 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of salmon and herring eggs.

    Do nothing eh?

    Anyone interested in a good overview of the science see the National Academies Oil in the Sea III (2003)

    Why not just give us the link?

    Remember it is not just about the amount of oil spilled, it is the type, distance off shore, weathering, weather, dose, biota type and resistance, season etc. One cannot make Valdez comparisons by quantity.

    Lets wait & see the end result before adopting your forecast of nothing will happen & nothing should be done.

    This oil spill is certainly not a good thing but to call it apocalyptic is incorrect

    Sounds like AGW denier terminology to me. The same phrase deniers use when they declare proponents of AGW are forecasting an apocalypse…but suddenly cant produce a link to prove it. Can you provide a link to a blog or paper that has said “apocalyptic”?

    Another note – the largest spill(s) in US history were from German UBoat torpedoes in 1942 releasing some 175 million gallons of crude and refined product off the coast of NYC to the outer banks

    Have you got a reference for that? Figures Ive seen from WW2 sunk ships are small in comparison to yours & it predates this list:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_oil_spills

    Tar balls remained for some time but it did not kill the ecosystem

    Just how much scientific analysis of the oceans were taking place during WW2? I’m thinking they probably had other things to worry about & probably didnt even consider the effects until some time in 1946. By that time, Im sure the effects would have dissipated.

    Am I stating this to justify the spill- NO

    I doubt ANYONE would want to justify an oil spill, but you are certainly trying to downplay any effect now or in the future.

    By the way, the effects of the 1989 Valdez oil spill are still present today.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=environmental-effects-of

    Its sounds to me like you got your information about the Valdez off the video that EXXON circulated to schools at the time to “educate” them on the spill.

    http://www.textbookleague.org/36exx.htm

    Exxons version of the spill.

  5. [...] As yet another environmental issue unfolds, relating to fossil fuels, it seems ever clearer that we need to begin the change in human activity to those of increased sustainability. It is meaningless what any given individual believes to be the case with climate change; there are so many sibling environmental issues that however you choose to look at the situation, you always end up with an urgent need to shift away from fossil fuels (I’ve gone into it here, here, here, here, here, and here). [...]

  6. Frances says:

    Thanks Phil for your insights, I agree completely. You pegged Pat well.

  7. James says:

    Although I no longer live and work on the Gulf coast,I will always consider that area as my home away from home.I am absolutely sickend by even the thought of the potential level of death and destruction this disastor may bring to the Gulf South.

    I am also sickend by the attempts of some people to down play the severity of this and other enviro-social disastors even as human beings and helpless animals suffer and die needlessly in the name of progress. Here are some basic facts for all of you so called conservitives out there who can not think beyond your own selfish ambitions and or the rehtoric of small minded persons of like mind from times past.

    Fact number one-Life,the ecosystems which sustain life and the bio-diversity which buffers both life and life sustaining environs from extinction,particularly rapid extinction are far more important than the maintanance of an economy based upon endless growth and the accumulation of capital.Another words;life is worth more than all the money in the world.For most of mans history we have lived and functionend without the use of money.Man has never,nor will he ever be able to live in the absence of breathable air,drinkable water,agrigable soil and fairly stable climatic regiems.

    Fact number two-Freedom should include the right to not have to suffer from the effects of the disastorous mistakes made by other people.Go ahead conservitive macho men,take all the personal risks you please;but you do not have a right to subject others to the negative outcomes of the risks you take.You do not have a right to destroy the lives and livlihoods of others.

    Fact number three-No one should be able to claim the ”right” to profit from the ”needs” of others.The natural resources of the planet should ultimately belong to all the inhabitants of the planet,not to private enities who for the sake of profit willfully create artifical scarcity while also endangering the well being of other people.The persons who endevor to transform the earths ”freely”given resources into usable and or more usable goods could be rewarded very well by scociety,without scociety being obligated to the so called owners of the natural resources needed by scociety.If the oil in the Gulf would have been considered the property of the American people, to be retrieved by a publicaly ownend coopertive whom only needed to pay for the cost of retrival and refinery,then it is very likely that the blow out preventers would have been in place,regardless of cost.This disastor happend thanks to the fact that BP,like all private corporations places private profits before public need or saftey.This disator has happend to because we have wrongfully assumed that some people have a absolute right to profit from the needs of others.

    I could continue with this fact revealing mission,but I believe I have said enough to get my main points across,besides I understand all to well that the people who need to read this the most are much to small minded to mentaly digest more than already stated at this point and time.

  8. bob says:

    The question is how are you going to plug this well?
    It appears no one has come up with a solution.
    Is there a possibility to attach a metal plug to a drone or
    submarine which could be driven into well hole and plugging it.
    And once driven into the hole plugging it then anchoring it to the sea floor.

  9. Ben says:

    Why all the worry? When the American coastline and ecosystem is damaged beyond all repair, and the local economy is destroyed American’s can just go somewhere else (maybe Canada) murder their citizens, replace their government with puppets and fools, and drill for offshore oil there.

    It’s the American way!

  10. Caleb says:

    Ok. We understand that BP has got themselves into a big mess. Everyone is in an uproar but I am not hearing very many solutions. So I thought I could suggest one. I will keep it short and to the point.

    I work for a company called Conveyor Application Systems, or “CAS”. They build specialized equipment for spreading material and filling long tubes with various types of materials like sand, rock, soil, mulch, etc. Their equipment has been used for the construction industry primarily, but has also seen some action in erosion control, and lately, in the flood protection and spill containment applications.

    Their technology and equipment could contain the oil from seeping into unwanted areas by applying their “Sand Tubes” along the at-risk area. Watch the video to see how it works.

    Pretty cool, really fast, really cost-effective, and potentially a major solution for this big, BIG problem. I am not sure who needs to see this and be convinced, and then actually put it into place, so please spread the word.

    Watch this youtube video to see how it works: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDhqBtnVR1E

  11. Docteur de climatologie says:

    http://www.reuters.com/subjects/gulf-oil-spill

    Qin Chen, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge
    The ecological catastrophe in the gulf of Mexico can be compared to the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Millions of gallons of oil are already in the Gulf of Mexico, and until now BP engineers failed to stop the leak.
    The tornado season which has started recently in the Mexican gulf can geographically coincide with the oil spill. The oil emerging into the tornado can be air diffused. It is still debated whether the oil dispersed as an aerosol can reach explosive quality. That this situation is far from hypothetical was demonstrated by the U.S. “mother of all bombs” and the Russian “dad of all bombs”. Based on the same dispersion principle, with 16,000 lbs of explosive aerosol inside, it is equivalent to 88,000 pounds of TNT.
    The amount of the oil dispersed in a form of an aerosol in the tornado epicenter can be enormous. The extreme explosive capacity of the oil aerosol might affect numerous economically important centers in the U.S.

    What does the U.S. government do to prevent this explosive situation?

  12. Tanay says:

    Team that loses the England-USA soccer match will have to clean the BP oil spill, says British PM http://bit.ly/9yZFH0

  13. Grizzly Bear says:

    Day 87 and the oil is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and has now reached the shores of every state along the Gulf. The estuaries are covered in oil, the birds are dying and who knows what is really happening under the water with the giant oil plume that continues to grow… and the oil still keeps bleeding into the Gulf.

  14. Gaz says:

    BP wont give a toss about the fines they are given, they will just put up there prices and you and me will pay

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