New Gulf Oil Found In Barataria Bay, and Clean Up Non-Existent in the Water and on Wildlife Refuges
While the well may have been capped in July, oil continues to wash ashore throughout the Gulf coast. On September 19th, my last day in the Gulf I met with pharmacist and activist Pam Batson from Mobile Alabama to survey the beaches in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We had seen a video on Youtube posted which showed large amounts of oil entering the backwater lagoon through one of the passes in that community, and a commenter had posted that they believed the whole video was staged and that what was being shown couldn’t be oil, so we decided to check it out first hand.
Upon arrival at the beach, the smell of oil was nearly overwhelming, and within a very short time, both Pam and I had terrible headaches. In a weird way, I was glad that Pam was suffering as well as it validated what I was feeling and have experienced through the months in the Gulf. With the media not paying attention, and the nation seemingly ready to move on from the largest environmental catastrophe our nation has ever faced, sometimes I question the reality of my situation. But no, it was obvious that the fumes were horrible, and someone was there to tell me that it’s not me who’s crazy, it’s the rest of the country who, despite all of the math and science are willing to believe statements from our own government like, ”over 75% of the oil has disappeared”.
We walked about 200 meters down the beach through copious tarballs scattered through the splash line of the beach, and you could see many more just off the beach in the water. When we got to the small pass in the beach, there were a couple of people fishing the breach with the incoming tide, and there was oil everywhere. You couldn’t walk in the surf without having oil stick to the bottom of your feet, and larger blobs of oil, exactly what the video showed were in the water. Some of these blobs were a one foot squared and about 3 or 4 inches thick.
Snowy Plover tracks in the mine field of oil on Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
Earlier that day I had been on Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and what I found there was even more disheartening to me. As one of the only un-developed pieces of coastline from Pensacola to Mobile Bay, Bon Secour serves as a hugely important refuge for much of the wildlife in the area, including resident Snowy Plovers as well as migrating Piping Plovers. There were tarballs covering nearly the entire 50-75 meter wide beach. After being deposited in the splash zone and wrack in the high tide line, the heavy winds had blown the tarballs all over the beach, and they existed in a high density almost to the far dune line. I encountered a pair of Snowy Plovers here who had to navigate a veritable mine field of oil as they foraged along the debris of the tide line. There was no clean up effort visible anywhere near this area.
A Snowy PLover at Bon Secour on September 19th. All of the brown dots are tarballs.
In fact, though the amount of oil that continues to wash ashore has not diminished at all, BP contractors charged with cleaning the beaches have been cut to a fraction of what they once were. Even though their TV ads proclaim that they will be there to see this thing through to the end, they continue to put forth an effort that is no where near the level of severity of this environmental disaster, and our very own Government, Wildlife Agencies, and national environmental organizations seem content with allowing this to happen. While some may be looking forward to habitat restoration in the region, they have all allowed a laughable response to this most urgent and pressing problem. I don't know about the legality of picking this oil up, but I'm starting to think that ordinary citizens might start to organize their own clean up efforts to show what a herculean response looks like.
This is an exerpt from Steve Cardiff and Donna Dittman's most recent report from surveys of oiled birds on the barrier islands of Southern Louisiana;
Steve writes,"Still considerable patchy residual oiling across island with oil stains on rocks, and scattered dried pools of oil on sand and tidal flats, but oil has weathered and has disappeared from most plant stems; marsh vegetation appears generally healthy, but some small areas with totally dead spartina. Oil smell not as bad but still strong in spots. No oiled birds encountered except for
immature Little Blue Heron with light oil."
and, " on the way back to Grand Isle from East Grand Terre Island we encountered substantial amounts of floating oil in Barataria Bay north of Grand Terre Island. This
was reddish, snotty stuff in linear slicks, with the oily substance extending down into the water column. We also saw more dispersed tiny blobs of this stuff scattered over wider areas of the bay. Some of the denser slicks were covered with gas bubbles from apparent bacterial decomposition."
From Donna;" We were out Thurs-Fri – and saw some oil in the bay side of Grand Terre – no one skimming. But, it’s more “dispersed” than the mats of gooey goop – but I think would still soil birds. There was some of that on East Grand Terre." Seen on October 8th!!!!