Gulf Oil Spill Updates

Oil-stained beaches at Gulf Shores, Alabama
Oil-stained beaches at Gulf Shores, Alabama

Heard much about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico lately? Probably not… once the caps were in place on the well, the media largely moved on to other stories. Even the current slew of political advertising doesn’t seem to try to make much hay out of the US’ largest environmental disaster.

But you can’t release millions of gallons of oil, and dump millions of gallons of chemical dispersants, into an ecosystem without long-term impact… and, despite the dearth of coverage, a few stories are creeping out here and there which show that the spill itself was just chapter one in a longer saga.

Four stories showing the continued impact of the Gulf oil spill

  1. Fish kills: In mid-September, New Orleans’ WWL reported on a massive fish kill in Bayou Chaland in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. Originally attributed low levels of dissolved oxygen common during low tides by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, further study of the fish showed “…the fish [had] oil in their gills and liver.” No word yet on whether the oil the fish had ingested matched that from the Gulf oil spill, but areas in which these kills occurred were also “heavily oiled,” according to P.J. Hahn, the Director of the Coastal Zone Management Department, and the investigator who found oil in the fish. (thanks to Faildrill for the heads up)
  2. Remaining oil in the water: The oil’s all been cleaned up… right? Not so fast… a report in this weekend’s New Orleans Times-Picayune notes that “…Louisiana fishers Friday [October 22] found miles-long strings of weathered oil floating toward fragile marshes on the Mississippi River delta.” Ironically, this find comes right after a declaration from BP and the federal government that little recoverable oil remained in the Gulf, along with only traces of dispersant chemicals.
  3. Remaining oil on the coasts: While local and state governments have prioritized beach clean-up in Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida — they’re tourist destinations, after all — that sand still isn’t white… at least below the surface. CNN went to Northwest Florida, where researchers from the University of West Florida are still finding oil tar in the sand… much of it well below the surface of those white sandy beaches. (Hat tip to HuffPo Green)
  4. The human trauma: While most of the reporters may have left, the people who live on the Gulf are still there, and still trying to make a living and a life in the region. The Natural Resources Defense Council, Bridge the Gulf, and StoryCorps are collecting the stories of Gulf residents in the wake of the oil spill to find out how its affecting them: economically, certainly, but also culturally and psychologically. So far, they’ve posted four stories from individuals in the region; all are available in audio format, and one in video.

The devastation created by an event like the BP oil spill can’t be erased overnight: the people of the region, and those of us beyond it, will feel the impact of this disaster for years to come. If we’re going to make sure something like this never happens again, these stories need telling…

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. The site’s Green Choices eco shopping portal features a wide range of environmentally-friendly products, including green cleaning supplies. You can follow Jeff and sustainablog on Twitter @sustainablog.

Photo Credit: southerntabitha at flickr under a Creative Commons license

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