2013 June 03, Monday
Gulf of Mexico, 10-80 miles off the tip of Louisiana
Seas were calm and we had about 15 hours before we had to leave on travel, so we grabbed our clear shot between thunderstorms to the east and west and headed for the Gulf waters south of Louisiana to check on some gnarly-looking oil slicks we had seen out there on our whale shark flight last Friday May 24. For over 30 nautical miles we tracked that chronic oil slick from the old Taylor Energy site (a platform and more than 25 attached pipelines that were damaged in Hurricne Ivan in 2004). We were delighted to see a large adult sperm whale about 60 nm south of the Taylor slick, but no animals were seen near the Taylor slick.
We waited until today to publish this article, but we didn't wait to inform the US Coast Guard and give them all of our flight information and some helpful photos. (Our NRC report was #1049216.) As a result, the USCG put together a group to work on our information and planned a flight out there themselves for this morning, Wednesday June 5. We hope that conditions are good enough today for them to follow our information and see this pollution for themselves today.
Although we have been documenting the chronic pollution at the Taylor site for nearly three years, to date the USCG, the EPA, and other government enforcement agencies have not acted so as to effect the undertaking of repair or remediation. So the leakage has continued. Our short flight today proved that the sheen covers more than 200 acres (since we followed a line averaging 15 m in width for 30 nm, and 1000 acres is approximately 1 square nm or 4 square km). For oil to be clearly visible on the surface from about 1000' agl or higher, it is typically 1-10 microns thick. Hence the volume of oil just in the sheen we tracked was at least as many gallons as it was acres, and maybe ten times that -- i.e., at least 200 gallons. (One gallon is approximately 1 acre of 1-micron thickness.) However, daily NRC reports made by an unknown aircraft have, for well over six months now, been reporting that the Taylor pollution site amounted to just a few gallons of oil. We want the truth about the magnitude of the pollution here and elsewhere in the Gulf to be known and addressed properly, for the sake of the health and safety of all life associated with the Gulf of Mexico.
Very special thanks for this flight goes to supporters of Joyce Riley's radio show "The Power Hour" and to Mr. Jim Lodwick, whose recent donations we used to cover the costs of this flight. And to Brayton Matthews of Flightline First at New Orleans' Lakefront Airport, who came along as photographer and whose company has helped protect and maintain our airplane since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf over three years ago.
See all the photos and read the full article here!