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Environmental Impact

posted Nov 11, 2010, 12:44 PM by Cesar Harada

Gulf Oil Spill

posted Jun 2, 2010 2:37 PM by Li Yu   [ updated Jun 2, 2010 3:13 PM by Cesar Harada ]

Environmental Impact

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon exploded, then sank, killing eleven workers while working on an 18,000-foot well in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.  Based on surface observations and a newly discovered oil leak in the damaged piping on the sea floor, approximately 5,000 barrels or 210,000 gallons of oil are leaking into the waters of the Gulf per day.  The spill, which Coast Guard officials had thought was contained within a 16 square mile radius, now covers 400 square miles, and may grow as the well continues to spew oil into the Gulf.  Governor Bob Riley confirmed this weekend that 80% of containment booms have failed to slow or contain the oil spill. The booms litter the beaches where they were no match for wind and waves. This catastrophic oil spill is dangerous, not only for residents of the Gulf, but also for the fragile ecosystem, and the Gulf’s recovering economy.

For residents of the Gulf, high-exposure levels to oil is a serious health risk that proves to have long-term effects.  According to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry that examined the relationship between the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depressive symptoms in 13 Alaskan communities, men and women who were exposed were 3.6 times as likely to have generalized anxiety disorder and 2.9 times as likely to have PTSD.  Women exposed to this oil spill were particularly vulnerable to these conditions, and Alaska Natives were particularly vulnerable to depressive symptoms.  Beyond the plausible health risks to humans, the Gulf’s ecosystem is in great danger, as oil continues to leak into inhabited areas.

The massive oil spill bearing down in the Gulf on Louisiana's fragile coast wetlands comes at the worst time for untold numbers of nesting birds and spawning fish whose young are most vulnerable to the toxicity.  Turtles and birds will actually eat food that's covered in oil, which can affect their digestive systems. In birds, the oil seeps into their feathers and impairs body insulation, exposing them to cold and making it difficult for them to move. Almost all migratory birds, such as brown pelicans, herons, ducks, and sparrows, in the Western hemisphere stop over these marshes and many are guarding eggs along the shorelines.  With the oil reaching shore, many are getting covered in oil and dying within a matter of hours.  High tides and high winds can push the oil deep into the wetlands, which are accessible only by boat and offer few footholds for rescue workers and plenty of places for the frightened animals to hide.  Miles of boom barriers have been placed to protect three of the most sensitive wildlife refuges which are home to about 34,000 nesting birds.  Vast stretches of sensitive coastal areas remain utterly unprotected and it's unclear how well the booms hold up against the high winds and rough seas, said Tom MacKenzie, a spokesman for US Fish and Wildlife Service.  According to a study conducted by the Ecological Society of America on the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on habitat use by birds, oil spills may affect species through direct effects on population size and structure and direct and indirect (toxicological) effects on reproduction.  Of the 19 species that did exhibit negative impacts, 13 (68%) showed evidence of recovery only after 2.5 years. 

In an interview with, Deborah Long, spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said the oil spill in the Gulf could have a “dramatic effect” on the shrimp industry’s ability to stay in business.  Louisiana is the No. 1 provider of shrimp, oysters, crab and crawfish in the United States, making up 33% of the seafood consumed in America. These shellfish add $2.4 billion a year to the state's economy, according to the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.  What's more, if the slick is not contained, it could cost many jobs. The seafood industry accounts for 1 of every 70 jobs in Louisiana. Closure of the southern third of the Gulf behind the Breton and Chandeleur island chains ends trawling for white shrimp there, said Randy Pausina, a spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  The federal government shut off commercial and recreational fishing from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle for a minimum of 10 days Sunday, because of seafood contamination concerns. 


The oil spill threatens oyster beds and shrimp breeding grounds in what president Obama calls a "potentially unprecedented natural disaster."  Crab, oyster, and fish prices have already gone up $4 a pound, and fish market owners claim that after they exhaust their current reserves, there will be no more seafood available for a couple of months to come, unless they turn to foreign waters.  According to Neil McMahon, an analyst at investment firm Bernstein, the Louisiana fishing industry may sustain $2.5 billion in losses and Florida may lose $3 billion in lost tourism. 

With the new leak discovered on the sea floor, the immense damages that continue to take place in the Gulf will not come to an end anytime soon.   According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, “this thing could keep going on for 90 days.”  President Obama visited the Gulf Coast on Sunday and Salazar and Homeland Security representative, Janet Napolitano spoke Sunday with the governors of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.  Over 1,500 people are responding to the oil spill; a mix of British Petroleum officials and state and federal officials. They're using more than 100 vessels, including tugs and barges, along with aircrafts, vehicles and offshore drilling units.  It is with high hopes that with their combined efforts, the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe off the Gulf of Mexico will be contained in a timely manner.

BP Oil Spill Timeline - News & Events

+++++28 May 2010+++++


Shareholders, Associate Members and other stakeholders will be interested to know of Oil Spill Response’s involvement in the ongoing involvement in the response to the oil spill which followed the fire and explosion onboard the semisubmersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil Spill Response activity as of 28th May 2010:

Oil Spill Response has continued to be active in its support to BP in the response to this incident. Ongoing oil releases have been reduced through the use of a Riser Insertion Tube Tool by BP and top kill well control commenced this week. Further shoreline impact of the oil has been observed around the Mississippi “bird’s foot” delta area and to the coast to the west of the delta. As this is predominately marshland, access to the spill sites is difficult.

At the Houma Incident Command Post, our Response Manager (Dispersant Ops) continues to manage the logistics for the dispersant application and SMART Teams’ vessel operations, including dispersant replenishment and change out arrangements. We are applying dispersant from two vessels and conducting fluorometry monitoring of dispersant effectiveness from a further two vessels.

During the week it became apparent that the fluorometry data gathered was not being properly assessed by other agencies. This coincided with the US EPA raising concerns about the use of dispersant. One of our Senior Response Specialists was tasked to review the data and gathered and develop a report for the EPA which has been very well received.

Deepwater dispersant spraying operations
Dispersant spraying operations in vicinity of relief well rig.

Other Oil Spill Response personnel under the direction of our Response Manager (General Ops) are coordinating the SCAT missions, sourcing helicopters and vessels for the Teams to complete their operations. We have set up a second SCAT room at the Alabama Incident Command Post in Mobile, and have synchronised this with the Houma SCAT room.

We are also arranging the logistics elements for beach cleaning and materials handling in preparation for this phase of the response activities. All boom and ancillaries have been made up into self-contained packages and consigned to forward staging posts ready for deployment.

In discussion with BP we have engaged the services of two further personnel in key roles on temporary contract to Oil Spill Response; one as SCAT Team Leader and one as interface between the SCAT teams and Operations.

Our Incident Commander continues to be the key point of contact with BP and the Environmental Unit teams within the incident command system. Oil Spill Response personnel are supported by our in-field Duty Administrator; making a current total in-field deployment of 16 personnel. Our personnel are working approximately three-week rotations in field and we will maintain continuity for the project with back-to-back paired rotations for key roles.

As noted last week, we have commenced replenishment of our stockpiles. We have placed orders for new shoreline and offshore boom and are also pursuing options for the hire of offshore boom in the interim as. Nonetheless, as previously reported, we retain more than sufficient equipment resources at this moment in time to respond to another major incident.

Our personnel resources are of course stretched to an extent, but the pool of expertise we have, not just within our response teams but also in our training, consultancy and other departments, allows us to manage these demands. We are also utilising support from the Global Response Network and other oil spill response organisations; with, for instance, two members of staff from the Maritime New Zealand oil spill teams slated for the next rotation.

We continue to be able to meet all our training, consultancy and equipment hire commitments, although we cannot necessarily meet all requests for named individuals to be allocated to projects as we have to retain flexibility in our resource planning. As an example of this we have this week also been responding to a 2,000 tonne spill resulting from a vessel collision in the Singapore Straits. 

May 23: Louisiana coast's battle against drifting oil expected to last months, if not years. 'Top kill' to stop Gulf of Mexico oil spill may be delayed; Coast Guard admiral expects 'constant activity' by BP. State officials say they won't wait for approval to build sand barriers. 
Read more about efforts to stop the oil spill.

May 22: State closes southwestern portion of Barataria Bay to all fishing. Deepwater Horizon oil spill revealed an industry ill-prepared to deal with 'black swan' event. 
Read more about oil spill impact of Louisiana Fishing industry.

May 21: Grand Isle closes beaches due to oil on shore. 
Read more about the oil spill beach closure.

May 20: BP concedes more oil spilling into Gulf than originally estimated. Feds order BP to put all Gulf oil spill data on Internet. A month after explosion, oil from Gulf of Mexico spill washes ashore in populated areas.

May 19: BP's estimate of volume of Gulf of Mexico oil leak is dramatically low, Purdue expert says. BP may make first attempt to seal Gulf oil well Sunday or Monday. Costly, time-consuming test of cement linings in Deepwater Horizon rig was omitted, spokesman says.

May 18: 19 percent of Gulf fishing shut down because of oil spill. Gulf of Mexico oil spill 'increasingly likely' to enter Loop Current, travel to Florida Keys. Several Louisiana wells shut down as a precautionary measure because of Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

May 17: Insertion tube draining 1,000 barrels per day. 8 investigations underway into Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and oil spill. Tar balls found off Key West, Fla., Coast Guard reports.

May 16: Giant underwater plumes of oil found in Gulf of Mexico. Mile-long tube finally draining oil from busted pipeline in Gulf of Mexico.

May 15:First attempt to stop oil spill with insertion tube has failed, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Oily shrimp force new fishing closures Terrebonne Parish; two oyster harvesting areas reopened in St. Bernard Parish.

May 14: Tiniest victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may turn out to be most important. Insertion-tube strategy for containing Gulf of Mexico oil spill to be tried tonight.

May 13: BP says its Gulf of Mexico oil spill costs now at $450 million. Louisiana using Mississippi River diversions in Gulf oil spill battle. Oil at 2nd barrier island off Terrebonne Parish. Offshore drilling supported despite Gulf of Mexico oil leak, poll suggests. Insertion tube strategy chosen to address Gulf of Mexico oil leak.

May 12: Tar balls reported at South Pass in Plaquemines Parish. Oil on shore of barrier island off Terrebonne Parish, state reports. BP still deciding how best to deploy 'top hat' to contain Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Criminal charges likely in Gulf oil spill, newspaper group reports.

May 11: Gulf of Mexico oil leak hearings in Senate leave major questions unanswered. Smaller 'top hat' containment box being lowered over Gulf oil leak.

May 10: BP prepares second, smaller containment dome, and for "kill shot" on leaking oil well in Gulf of Mexico.  BP president to face congressional questioning in Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Gas surge shut well a couple of weeks before Gulf oil spill.

May 9: After Saturday's containment box failure, BP may try again with a smaller version.

May 8: Gulf of Mexico oil leak response hampered by frozen crystals clogging containment box.

May 7: Coast Guard confirms report of Gulf oil spill reaching Chandeleur Islands. How the Gulf of Mexico oil spill happened: a graphic presentation. Booms being deployed to protect Rigolets, Chef Menteur passes from oil spill.  Containment box to stifle oil spill in Gulf has been placed over spewing well.

May 6: 2 dead birds found near islands off Plaquemines Parish. BP did five "controlled burns" Wednesday of oil released in Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP offers spill cleanup class to St. Charles commercial fishers. Oil fumes delaying lowering of containment box over Gulf oil leak. Safety fluid was removed before oil rig exploded in Gulf.

May 5: BP caps one of three Gulf of Mexico oil leaks but the flow is undiminished. Containment box meant to stifle Gulf of Mexico oil spill is en route to accident site. State, Corps consider opening Bonnet Carre Spillway to keep Gulf oil spill at bay. Louisiana seafood proclaimed safe amid Gulf oil spill fears.

May 4: Gulf oil spill will not cause cash flow problems for state, Jindal says. Jindal mobilizes another 500 troops for Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Rig workers sue in Gulf oil spill, saying they were in lifeboats for 10 hours after explosion. BP CEO Tony Hayward says spending on Gulf oil spill unlikely to be limited by cap. BP attaches shut-off valve, will begin shipping containment structures for Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

May 3: Chemicals at source reducing amount of oil spill reaching surface of Gulf, BP CEO Tony Hayward says. A board investigating what caused the explosion and spill plans to hold its first public hearing in about two weeks. BP CEO Tony Hayward said that BP was not responsible for the accident, but will pay for the cleanup. Jindal says state and parish plans moving forward to contain oil spill. Containment boxes are being built to capture oil spilling into Gulf.

May 2: President Barack Obama travels to Gulf for update, assures Louisiana that oil spill has federal government's full attention. Oil rig explosion and spill in Gulf of Mexico was because of failed equipment, according to BP Chairman Lamar McKay. St. Bernard Parish fishers hit the coastline to fight spreading oil from Gulf spill. Offshore fishing in Gulf of Mexico oil spill area closes.

May 1: St. Bernard Parish fishers begin training to assist in fight against Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Booms readied near Chef Menteur, Ft. Pike, to protect Lake Pontchartrain from Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The Obama administration names Adm. Thad Allen, the retiring U.S. Coast Guard commandant who directed recovery operations during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, to direct Gulf of Mexico oil spill response. No signs of oil at mouth of Mississippi River or Gulf Outlet yet as strong winds stall work deploying booms.

April 30: The Louisiana National Guard prepares to send communication equipment, boats, all-terrain vehicles and other equipment to help combat the oil spill. First bird covered in oil is caught and cared for.

April 29: An oil spill protection meeting draws nearly 200 fishers to Chalmette. Governor Bobby Jindal issues emergency declaration in oil leak in Gulf of Mexico.

April 28: Crews begin controlled burn of oil. This method is used to limit the amount of oil that could wash ashore. The NOAA announces that five times as much oil (210,000 gallons) is spewing in the Gulf of Mexico than originally thought. A new leak is discovered, as well, bringing the total to three.

April 25: Robot subs are used to try to stop the leak, which continues at a rate of about 42,000 gallons per day.

April 24: Contrary to what the U.S. Coast Guard said the previous day, oil is leaking from the undersea well at the Deepwater Horizon site at a rate of about 1,000 barrels per day, or 42,000 gallons.

April 23: The U.S. Coast Guard says no oil is leaking from the undersea well at the Deepwater Horizon site. The U.S. Coast Guard suspends the search for the 11 missing workers.

April 22: About 100 survivors from the explosion arrive on shore. The 11 workers unaccounted for are still missing. Deepwater Horizon sinks into the Gulf of Mexico.

April 21: The U.S. Coast Guard holds a news conference to discuss the explosion and those missing. "We have no idea where the 11 unaccounted-for personnel are," said Mary Landry, commander of the Coast Guard's 8th district headquarters.

April 20: The Deepwater Horizon deep-water oil drilling rig explodes and catches fire in the Gulf of Mexico. 126 people were on board, 11 dead and at least 17 are injured.