The Spill

The Spill

Initially, no one really knew what to expect of this whole thing. News stations everywhere had viewers glued to the TV, asking what was going on with all of this oil floating around the Gulf of Mexico, wondering when it would stop, and life would return to normal…

A year ago today, April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 oil field workers and releasing oil into the Gulf a short period after. On May 29, 2010, President Barack Obama arrived at Grand Isle, LA, just over a month after the maddening chaos at Deepwater Horizon took place. Oil reached the shores just days prior, and oil boom seemed to be the solution everyone was looking towards. Fishing boats traded in nets for clean up boom, and began scraping the seas. Mass media, and droves of cleanup workers, arrived in anticipation of President Obama’s arrival. It seemed as though the world had momentarily turned its glimpse towards the remote coastal community along the Gulf of Mexico.

I initially went because I was both ignorant and curious. I wasn’t sure of what was going on in this ecological disaster, why it was continuing. Promises were made by BP, Federal, State, and Local governments, as oil continued to flow for months. The scale and scope of the spill are unimaginable, even today. Approximately 209 million gallons of sweet crude oil flooded the Gulf between April 20 and July 15, with approximately 1 million gallons of dispersant used between April 22 to July 19. As soon as the well was capped, the outside world moved on. I’d like to think I am an advocate for the well being of the Gulf, and that I stay involved as I can afford to be, but even still, I feel just as ignorant as before, to the economic, cultural, and health concerns along Louisiana’s coast.

One year later, no one really knows what ecological ramifications we will see in aquatic life or the patterns of migratory birds, how biota and marsh is affected, the safety concerns of consuming seafood. Tourism along the coast suffers. Cleanup workers are sick, usually citing respiratory infection, vomiting, dizziness, memory loss, and poor eye sight. I recently heard Dr. Mike Robichaux, cited in the above article, at a meeting held at Tulane Law. He brought three workers who worked on site at Deepwater Horizon, were at sea for up to six months cleaning up and pulling the bodies of the eleven out of the water; each of whom are extraordinarily ill. Similar symptoms, most likely caused by carcinogens polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or benzene, are identical to responders from the Exxon Valdez spill off Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1989, and the Prestige spill off the coast of Spain in 2002.

News stations no longer devote regular attention to the issue, as tornados, tsunamis, earth quakes, and nuclear disaster now occupy the airwaves. The difference, though, is that this issue was driven, created, and neglected by mankind. It wasn’t an act of God or a natural disaster. The consequences are real, and could have been avoided. Many organizations and individuals have stepped up big to help right this wrong, but there is still so much we can learn from here, and many people that need to be helped. And while the story has indeed changed, it is no less important, 365 days later…