The Gulf is now one massive experiment

by Guest Blogger

July 28, 2010

I’m back home now after nearly two weeks of working as a boat driver for Greenpeace in the Gulf.  This was my second time in the Gulf to help with work related to the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.  What I experienced this time was entirely different from my first trip last

Last month, I saw deeply-oiled marshes and mangroves.  There were lots of oiled birds; entire nests were slathered in oil. I witnessed hundreds of dolphins swimming in oil-slicked waters.  Now this time, a little over a month later, the oil slicks are nearly gone!  In traveling the Gulf from Louisiana to Alabama, I hardly saw an oil slick at all. All I saw was an ever-present light sheen in the water. What happened?

BP has poured about two million gallons of Corexit oil dispersant into the Gulf.  Obviously the stuff works, because it’s hard to see the oil visually any more.  As a result, the Gulf states are reopening their beaches and recreational fishing, and the pressure is on to reopen
commercial fishing.

The thing is, the water is now toxic.  Here’s a clip from a local news station showing the amount of oil that’s in the water as a result of Corexit:

The effect of using Corexit is that the oil doesn’t float on the surface of the water now. Instead, it’s dissolved into the water. This means it can’t be skimmed, and also that it flows with the water current in addition to the wind. The oil is now spreading around the Gulf in such a way that it can’t be collected.  In addition to all that, Corexit has never before been used in any quantity approaching this level. The Gulf is now one massive experiment.

It was particularly disturbing to me to see children playing in the water while oil clean-up crews were on the same beach a few hundred feet away, collecting tar balls. It’s hard to watch because the water looks safe, but isn’t.

Because of all this, how we witness this tragedy has now changed. Instead of seeing oiled shorelines, we’ll now see the effects through water sample testing. It’s a more difficult message to convey, because things are starting to *appear* okay. To the contrary, the disaster is
only beginning. We’ll be living with a fundamentally-changed Gulf ecosystem for decades to come.

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