2015 April 26
Coastal waters of Louisiana
Gulf of Mexico

by Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D.1

 

Why have we tolerated a continuous major oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico for over a decade?
-- The Findings of Taylor Energy and Failures of the U.S. Coast Guard


CONTENTS

Introduction and Summary
The mistakes, and what is at stake
Hurricane Ivan and the Central Planning Area
Decades of carelessness
Amount of Material:  Careless reporting or deliberate deception?
What to do



INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

Ten miles offshore from the tip of Louisiana, in water less than 500 feet deep, lies a grim reminder that while nature gives to man freely, carelessness injures both man and nature.  Almost every day for the past decade, enough crude oil has leaked from the damaged seafloor here to render at least five hundred million gallons of sea water toxic to life. That’s enough poisoned water to fill 150 football fields to one-foot depth, every day.  These deadly waters cannot be  contained and do not remain stationary.  They follow currents and tidelines, like deadly predators silently stalking the marine life that they poison and will ultimately kill. 

Crude oil is so potent that even a minute concentration of one part per million can severely sicken or kill life. Its most toxic components, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), can persist in seawater for many years. They destroy red blood cells, alter liver metabolism, damage gland tissue, and interrupt the cellular pathways that control the beating of hearts. Ingestion causes cancer, DNA damage, and multi-generational birth defects. On contact, crude oil burns skin and dissolves easily into tissue. It suffocates fish by causing a mucus film to form over their bodies and gills, and it smothers benthic invertebrates such as oysters. 

In one pernicious way or another, crude oil causes premature and painful death to all life it touches.  Not just when it first appears, and not even just linearly with exposure time, but exponentially.  After long enough continued exposure, there are no longer enough healthy individuals to regenerate, and the local species of marine life disappear.

The photos below were taken on the 18th of June, 2014, almost a year ago. Note the sampling boat with scientists aboard, in the middle of the photo. They are surrounded by what OWOC estimated to be about 850 acres of sheen with 30% coverage, exhibiting most of the “colors” of sheen that we have seen in the Gulf of Mexico: silvery, rainbow, metallic, transitional dark, as well as streamers of emulsion.  OWOC estimated the amount of oil to be at least 200 gallons.  The same day, Taylor reported the amount of material associated with this sheen to be 0.34 gallons — about five cups. The scientists in the boat felt sick from the fumes; but afterward, we all felt sick to think that the Coast Guard would believe that all of that oil amounted to one-third of a gallon. (Photos courtesy of OnWingsOfCare.org and Oscar Pineda-Garcia.)

See all the photos, read the article, and download or look at all the references here!