The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

More Updates on the Royal Mess in the Gulf

In BP Oil Spill, Donkey Activism, Environment, Politics on July 29, 2010 at 3:55 pm

This is a continuation of our original post “Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water”. We needed a bigger boat:

NOTE: Our other articles on Corexit and the impact of the oil spill on the people of the gulf are here, here and here.

8/2 10AM UPDATE: Note: Here’s a new post on proof that Corexit is in the gulf food chain.

8/1 4:00PM UPDATE: We may never know how much Corexit was dumped into the Gulf. Today from the Christian Science Monitor:

BP has said that it used 1.8 million gallons of dispersant before the well was capped on July 15. But Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts said that with the new documents: “The validity of those numbers are now in question.”

Because:

On June 16, Markey notes, BP told the Coast Guard that its use of Corexit had never exceeded 3,365 gallons in any recent day. Yet e-mails to Congress told a different story. In fighting the Gulf oil spill on June 12 and 13, the e-mails noted, BP used 14,305 gallons 36,000 gallons respectively.

But there were safer alternatives to Corexit:

Markey has been Congress’s fiercest critic of the use of dispersants. His agitation on the issue in part led to the EPA’s May 25 directive.

The directive was in response to the EPA’s failed attempt to force BP to stop using Corexit altogether. By the EPA’s own tests, Corexit is more toxic and less effective than 12 other products on the market.

BP, however, refused to comply with the EPA demand, saying no other manufacturers could meet its overwhelming needs. The Obama administration ultimately agreed, though at least one manufacturer challenged BP’s assertion.

The rest of the article is here.

7/31 10:00PM UPDATE: Everything’s back to normal: the Alabama beaches are open, Florida has lifted the ban on fishing, and after a slight delay shrimping season has begun! I’m so glad that’s over. As the LA Times reports:

Federal forecasters said Friday significantly less oil was being observed in aerial views of the gulf. The size of the oil slick has been reduced dramatically ever since a snug-fitting cap was installed atop the failed oil well 50 miles off the Louisiana coast.

Because we can’t see the oil, the oil simply isn’t there. Duh. All we needed was a “snug fitting” cap. Now, what about the fish?

“We are confident all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that seafood harvested from waters being opened … is safe, and that gulf-seafood lovers everywhere can be confident eating and enjoying the fish and shrimp that will be coming out of this area,” said FDA chief Margaret Hamburg, who has been leading extensive testing of gulf seafood by chemical analysis and human sniffing.

(“Gulf seafood lovers everywhere…” is this copy from a Red Lobster commercial?) And the human nose is the science behind opening the gulf waters to fishing? You can’t be serious. Oh, you ARE serious?

Robert Downs leads the scientists who sniff at fish. Each day, his team of seven sensory experts dip their noses into large Pyrex bowls of snapper, tuna and other raw seafood to test for even a whiff of the pungent oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

So all it needs to do is pass the smell test.

“We use specific terms for the aroma,” said Downs, who supervises the seafood smellers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine lab here. “Diesel oil. Bunker oil. Asphalt. Rubber-band-like. Tar.”

The fish smellers are part of a major effort by NOAA, the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and state governments to ensure that the still-leaking oil doesn’t pollute the nation’s food supply. Partially because of the sniffers, NOAA has banned fishing in more than a third of the Gulf of Mexico, 81,181 square miles in all. State officials also have barred fishing along more than 550 miles of beaches and bayous from Louisiana to northern Florida.

“We have found tainted fish,” said John Stein, who runs the BP oil spill seafood safety testing program for NOAA. “It’s not uncommon.”

What exactly does Corexit smell like?

7/31 5:00PM UPDATE: From the Washington Post today:

While the BP well was still gushing, the Obama administration issued an order that limited the spreading of controversial dispersant chemicals on the Gulf of Mexico’s surface. Their use, they said, should be restricted to “rare cases.”

But in reality, federal documents show, it wasn’t rare at all.

Despite the order — and concerns about the environmental effects of the dispersants– the Coast Guard granted requests to use them 74 times over 59 days, and to use them on the surface and deep underwater at the well site. The Coast Guard approved every request sent in by BP or local Coast Guard commanders in Houma, La., although in some cases it reduced the amount of the chemicals they could use, according to a analysis of the documents prepared by the office of Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

The documents indicate that “these exemptions are in no way a ‘rare’ occurrence, and have allowed surface application of the dispersant to occur virtually every day since the directive was issued,” Markey wrote in a letter dated Aug. 1 to retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad W. Allen, the government’s point man on the spill. Markey chairs the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

Some of them dealt with separate dispersant applications on the same day. Markey said it appeared that the order “has become more of a meaningless paperwork exercise” than a real attempt to curb use of the dispersants.

It’s all about perception, right?

Aaron Viles, at the Louisiana-based Gulf Restoration Network, said the Obama administration gave the impression of controlling the controversial dispersants while allowing their use to continue. The result, he said, was that more oil sank out of sight and out of reach of the cleanup operation.

“Clearly, you know, there was a bit of a show here,” Viles said. “Whether EPA wasn’t serious, or the Coast Guard didn’t care, they kept cranking, and kept exposing the Gulf of Mexico to this giant science experiment.”

Yes, a giant science experiment. Didn’t I read that somewhere earlier this week? The rest of the article is here.

7/31 2:00PM UPDATE: This is distressing:

As of July 15, more than 39,448 tons of BP oil spill waste was disposed in nine approved landfills in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Five of the nine the landfills receiving BP oil-spill solid waste are located in communities where people of color comprise a majority of residents living within a one-mile radius of the waste facilities.

A significantly large share of the BP oil-spill waste, 24,071 tons out of 39,448 tons (61 percent),was dumped in people of color communities. This is not a small point since African Americans make up just 22 percent of the coastal counties in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana, while people of color comprise about 26 percent of the population in coastal counties.These numbers present significant environmental justice implications that have not been addressed by government, including the U.S. EPA.

It is clear that theflow of BP oil-spill waste to Gulf Coast communities is not random. A disproportionately large share of the oil waste is headed to African American and other people of color communities. Dumping BP disaster waste on communities of color is not “green” nor is it a pathway to recovery and long-term sustainability,

Allowing BP, Gulf Coast states, and the private disposal industry to select where the oil-spill waste is dumped only adds to the legacy of environmental racism and unequal protection. Environmental justice communities and their allies are demanding that BP end the unfair waste dumping practice. They also want to see EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard engage in a more rigorous oversight of BP’s waste plan to ensure that no single community or population in the Gulf Coast states becomes the oil-spill waste dumping grounds.

H/T to OpEdNews for the story which you can find here.

7/31 9:00AM UPDATE: Perhaps BP is scaling back their cleanup operations a little early:

Marcus Little, of Semmes, Alabama, is a cleanup worker who was told by BP that Friday would be his last day. Little told the Press-Register that tar balls and “a layer of a cola-colored substance an inch or so below the surface,” are being left behind. “The latter, he said, makes the sand look like ‘vanilla ice cream with chocolate swirls,’” the newspaper reports.

“If you bring a shovel, you’ll see that the top of the sand is littered with what looks like chocolate chips, but they’re actually tiny tarballs,” Little said. “I clean the beaches, supposedly, and I find it very disturbing.”

Louisiana fishermen Mike Frenette, who is now employed in BP’s “Vessels of Opportunity” cleanup program, said that on Tuesday the spill was the worst he had seen it. Observing the catastrophe, he questioned whether or not the mainstream media lives in a “parallel universe,” according to the Times-Picayune.

“There was more oil at South Pass Tuesday than I’ve seen since this whole thing started; it was really discouraging,” Frenette told the New Orleans newspaper. “I don’t know where everyone else is looking, but if they think there’s no more oil out there, they should take a ride with me. I wish this thing was over so I could get back to fishing. But that’s just not the case. We’re a long way from finished with the oil.”

“I followed a line that stretched from South Pass to Southwest Pass probably two to three miles off the shore,” said Don Sutton, another fisherman employed in the cleanup. “And that wasn’t all we saw. There were patches of oil in that chocolate mousse stuff, slicks, and patches of grass with oil on them. The Gulf might look clear, but we’re still seeing oil coming ashore.”

I echo Mr. Frenette’s assessment: the mainstream media does live in a parallel universe. More from the wsws.org article here.

7/30 10:00PM UPDATE: Tonight WVUE-TV Fox 8 News in New Orleans has a report on the oil dispersant found in the crab larvae:

Preliminary findings that reveal that orange droplets found in tens of thousands of tiny blue crab larvae are characteristic of the controversial oil dispersants.

From the lab:

Now, researchers say it appears they’ve detected a Corexit sort of fingerprint in these orange blobs found lodged in the bodies of tiny blue crab larvae collected from marshes from Texas to Florida.

Corexit is much bigger problem than the oil:

Most components of oil won’t bio-accumulate meaning oil likely won’t reach the food chain… With Corexit no one really knows. If you’re a small fish and you eat a thousand of these larvae and all of them have oil or Corexit drops in them they could get into the fish and that little fish can be eaten and so-on and so-on.

On the unprecedented amount of dispersant used in the Gulf:

A toxicologist found out that some of these chemicals are in great excess of established and risk-based lethal levels.

H/T to WVUE-TV New Orleans on their report. The entire segment that aired tonight can be found here.

7/30 5:00PM UPDATE: I just received this comment from “Damnadamzama” on a post that I left on a Raw Story article about “Spillionaires” here:

I never get sinus headaches. I am in the Gulf Region. I have been getting earaches and splitting, raging sinus headaches in the last two weeks. Good thing I’m moving back to the Midwest. Eff this.

Wise decision.

7/30 3:30PM UPDATE: Here comes the new boss… same as the old boss:

BP’s incoming CEO said Friday that it’s time for a “scaleback” of the massive effort to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but stressed the commitment to make things right is the same as ever.

Tens of thousands of people — many of them idled fishermen — have been involved in the cleanup, but more than two weeks after the leak was stopped there is relatively little oil on the surface, leaving less work for oil skimmers to do.

And:

Bob Dudley, who heads BP’s oil spill recovery and will take over as CEO in October, said it’s “not too soon for a scaleback” in the cleanup, and in areas where there is no oil, “you probably don’t need to see people in hazmat suits on the beach.”

And by “you” he really means “stockholders”. More from Raw Story here.

7/30 2:40PM UPDATE: Toxicologist Susan Shaw on her personal experience with Corexit and fishermen who were splashed with the poisonous chemical:

Of the impact of Corexit on the Gulf.

A Susan Shaw primer on Corexit and it’s harmful effects at TED:

7/30 2:20PM UPDATE: What Digby said.

7/30 12:00PM UPDATE: BREAKING: Thousands in Gulf suffer from misdiagnosed skin lesions.

7/30 11:30AM UPDATE: Has Corexit already entered our food chain? There’s a good chance it has. From Huffington Post:

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.

Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them “in almost all” of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. — more than 300 miles of coastline — said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

And now, a team of researchers from Tulane University using infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the blobs has detected the signature for Corexit, the dispersant BP used so widely in the Deepwater Horizon

“It does appear that there is a Corexit sort of fingerprint in the blob samples that we ran,” Erin Gray, a Tulane biologist, told the Huffington Post Thursday. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings, “so don’t say that we’re 100 percent sure yet,” Gray said.

The rest of the article is here. And more from NewsInferno:

Scientists have raised yet another alarm about the dispersants BP has used in unprecedented amounts to break up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. According to GulfLive.com, researchers have found an oil and dispersant mix beneath the shells of post-larval blue crabs. The discovery is one of the first signs that the BP disaster is impacting the Gulf of Mexico food chain.

More evidence:

Now it appears that dispersants have broken the oil up into droplets tiny enough to easily enter the food chain. According to GulfLive.com, scientists fro the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory’s Center for Fisheries Research and Development said tiny droplets are visible under the transparent shells of 2-millimeter-sized post-larval blue crabs collected in Mississippi’s Davis Bayou.

To confirm their findings, the scientists sent some crabs to a testing firm in Pensacola, Florida, which also found evidence of hydrocarbons.

In addition to blue crabs, the droplets were also seen in fiddler crab larvae.

The post-larval blue crabs are vital to Gulf Coast fisheries, GulfLive said, as they serve as food for all types of fish and shore birds.

So where’s the Corexit?

According to a report on Huffington Post, other scientists involved in the study from Louisiana’s Tulane University used infrared spectrometry to determine the chemical makeup of the droplets. In doing so, they discovered the chemical marker for Corexit. Two independent tests are being run to confirm those findings.

More from the NewsInferno story here.

7/30 8:00AM UPDATE: Is Enbridge the new BP?

A Canadian company at the center of a huge oil spill in southern Michigan has a history of pipeline problems, including leaks, an explosion and dozens of regulatory violations.

Enbridge Inc. or its affiliates have been cited for 30 enforcement actions since 2002 by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is the U.S. Department of Transportation’s regulatory arm.

In a warning letter sent Jan. 21, the agency told the company it may have violated safety codes by improperly monitoring corrosion in the pipeline responsible for the massive spill Monday in Talmadge Creek. The creek feeds into the Kalamazoo River, which eventually flows into Lake Michigan.

Our regulatory agencies have gotten really good at writing letters that the companies have become really good at ignoring. Dear Obama Administration: More teeth, please. More here.

7/29 11:00PM UPDATE: Mental health claims probably won’t be paid by BP:

BP’s $20 billion fund to compensate those hurt by the Gulf oil spill will probably turn down one controversial class of claims: those for mental health problems.

In little-noted testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on July 21, Kenneth Feinberg, the independent “claims czar” who will decide who gets compensated, said the fund was not likely to pay damages for mental illness and distress alleged to be caused by the spill.

“If you start compensating purely mental anguish without a physical injury — anxiety, stress — we’ll be getting millions of claims from people watching television,” Feinberg said. “You have to draw the line somewhere. I think it would be highly unlikely that we would compensate mental damage, alleged damage, without a signature physical injury as well.”

Indeed: People watching “The View” are right out. More TLC here.

7/29 7:00PM UPDATE: This video freaks me out. Kubrick lives:

H/T to Human Rights Examiner who have a ton of articles on this mess. We found this video here.

7/29 6:30PM UPDATE: Newsweek reports on the mental toll the spill and it’s aftermath is taking on the residents:

Despite recent reports that the oil spill is clearing up faster than expected, anxiety and depression still linger among residents of the gulf coast. A survey of 406 Gulf coast residents indicated the far-reaching emotional toll of the spill, with younger residents and low income citizens showing the most distress.

18 percent of respondants in Louisiana showed signs of “probable serious mental illness”  – double the rate of 2007, two years after Katrina hit. The other gulf states showed a lesser amount, but still all higher than 2007 levels: 14 percent of Florida respondents, 12 percent of Mississippi respondents, and 10 percent of Alabama respondents showed signs of probable serious mental illness. Those surveyed in the lowest income category had a 32 percent chance of suffering from serious mental illness, compared to only 2 percent of those who made over $100,000.

More here.

7/29 6:00PM UPDATE: The NYT on the history of the Gulf of Mexico being the United States’ “Sink of Pollution”:

Even the coast itself — overdeveloped, strip-mined and battered by storms — is falling apart. The wildlife-rich coastal wetlands of Louisiana, sliced up and drastically engineered for oil and gas exploration, shipping and flood control, have lost an area larger than Delaware since 1930.

“This has been the nation’s sacrifice zone, and has been for 50-plus years,” said Aaron Viles, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit group. “What we’re seeing right now with BP’s crude is just a very photogenic representation of that.”

More on this sad history here.

7/29 3:30PM UPDATE: Immediate Health Concerns from Helium:

Human health concerns:

Immediate physical health concerns for Gulf residents…

Coastal areas that have suffered oil and chemical contamination from the roving oil slicks should avoid breathing the toxic fumes which may be present. Anyone with compromised breathing conditions such as asthma, emphysema, or any other type of lung disorder might suffer serious consequences. Healthy individuals should realize the potential risk that toxic fumes can represent. Damage might include lungs, kidney, liver, eyes, and skin problems from exposure.

Some of the oil dispersant chemicals used on the oil slicks have unknown effects on human beings. Anyone who has direct contact with the oily chemical slime associated with the oil spill should wear protective gloves and clothing. It is important to avoid direct contact with the skin to avoid contamination with unknown side-effects.

Mental health concerns with the oil spill…

The human psyche is normally quite strong even under stress, but not everyone shares the same ability to handle the emotional stress that a catastrophe of this magnitude can produce. Those who have been most affected by the oil spill should consider professional help for themselves or family members who may be unable to deal with the emotional stress existing for some.

One suicide has already been attributed to the oil spill, and more will potentially follow. Post traumatic shock syndrome is a real possibility for some Gulf coast residents as this may represent a calamity that they cannot handle emotionally. Mental health is a risk factor that accompanies most disaster type conditions.

On the “new normal” of the Gulf as a “dead zone”:

Ecological consequences…

There are obvious short-term ecological consequences relating to bird and sea life habitats in coastal areas that have been contaminated by the oil slicks. Oyster beds, nesting areas for birds and turtles, and the habitats of crabs and other sea creatures are destroyed by exposure to the oil residue. Marshlands that are part of the barrier islands that rim the Gulf coast cannot survive oil contamination. It will likely take years for some of these areas to recover, if ever.

In a larger view of the situation, it is difficult to know to what extent the Gulf of Mexico may be able to renew itself. There is no question that there have been massive “kill zones” created by the massive oil slicks. Sea life is dead in some areas, but as a percentage of the size of the entire Gulf of Mexico it is actually a statistically small area by comparison.

More here.

7/29 3:00PM UPDATE: From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this afternoon:

…reports that oil has been disappearing from the surface have been exaggerated. “Yesterday there was a flight where no oil was seen. I don’t know how they took that flight, but they must have bobbed and weaved around the oil because in Plaquemines Parish there is oil all over…”

Evidence of plumes:

Little of the oil remains on the water, but that doesn’t mean it has all vanished. Scientists are worried that much of it has been trapped below the surface after more than 770,000 gallons of chemical dispersant were used to break up the oil a mile deep. They have found evidence of massive clouds of oil suspended in the water.In Orange Beach, Ala., Jack Raborn said he didn’t see any tar balls when he went to the shore Wednesday with friends and family. But when they entered the ocean, he said, the water was tainted. “It feels like you’ve got diesel fuel on you. It’s sticky,” said Raborn, 49. “I was optimistic before today. I’m really disturbed by what I found once we got in the water.”

More:

Oysterman Ronnie Kennair… is hoping for more work, especially given the prospects for his normal job. “I went and checked my oysters, actually, yesterday, and they’re 100 percent dead,” he said.

That’s good, because if someone would have eaten them they might be too. The rest is here.

7/29 2:30PM UPDATE: Some very early health impact reports From NewsInferno:

Meanwhile, we recently wrote that two Louisiana State University (LSU) sociology professors released a survey detailing some of the health impacts the BP oil spill is having on people living in Louisiana’s coastal communities. According to Professors Blanchard and Lee, those impacts are “real and substantial.”

The two are not among the first to raise serious concerns about the health consequences of the BP oil spill for people living and working near it. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has now reported 324 cases of oil-related ills. Two hundred and forty-one of those cases involved workers on oil rigs or workers involved in the oil spill clean-up efforts, while 83 were reported by the general public. Common complaints include headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness or fatigue, and throat irritation. It is thought that at least some of those symptoms are the result of dispersant exposure.

I think that’s an understatement. But it’s a start. Read the rest here.

- SH

  1. As if yesterday’s MSNBC report about the toxic dispersant Corexit being used to cover up the size of the BP spill (er… hemorrhage) and now lurking underwater wasn’t bad enough, Huffington Post now has an even more disturbing report that this noxious combo is now entering the food chain.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/29/scientists-find-evidence_n_664298.html

    My heart goes out to the people of the Gulf and especially the fishermen.

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