The Donkey Is Sleeping Today

The Nose Knows

In BP Oil Spill, Environment, Politics, Propaganda on August 2, 2010 at 9:54 am

The Original "Schnoz"

How bad has it gotten for BP? Their Chief Operating Officer, Doug Suttles, decided to put bolstering his company’s nose-diving balance sheet ahead of his family’s safety with this hard-to-digest statement:

When asked by a reporter whether he’d eat the Gulf’s bounty, Suttles didn’t flinch. “I absolutely would,” he told reporters after joining a flight over the Gulf to track the oil, which he insisted has dissipated dramatically.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of testing done by NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the state agencies and the FDA and others. They’re not going to open these waters to either sport fishing or commercial fishing if it’s not safe to eat the fish,” he said.

“I have a lot of confidence in those agencies and I trust their recommendations and I would eat their food — the seafood out of the Gulf, and I would feed it to my family,” he said.

Not so fast, Suttles. You’re welcome to eat whatever you like but before you go feeding the “Gulf’s bounty” to your unsuspecting family check out this report about what your dispersant, Corexit, has found its way into. From Fox 8 in New Orleans:

Still want to feed your family from these waters? Here’s more on NOAA’s methodology in this fish-or-famine struggle:

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. This is not Grand Cru wine. “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.”

Each olfactory analyst has a super schnoz, able to smell oil diluted to one part per million. That’s 40 times more sensitive than your average proboscis.

Proboscis means nose. Had to look that one up myself.

It’s also more sensitive than science can explain. Last month, the team caught a faint scent in a red snapper that chemists and toxicologists could not confirm despite three days of testing at an NOAA marine science lab in Seattle. The result: A rich fishing area off Louisiana’s coast stayed off-limits.

“The nose knows,” Downs said.

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

Under federal law, fishing is banned if oil is seen in the water.

This helps explain another reason for the use of the dispersant, Corexit, in unprecedented quantities. Because if there’s no oil “seen” in the water, Gulf fishermen by law can fish. And if Gulf fishermen can fish, then BP doesn’t have to pay them for sitting at home going slowly mad.

So most samples that are tested are caught outside the vast no-go zone or in other waters that are not visibly oiled. Pelagic fish, which migrate, pose a special concern for fear they may ingest oil and swim away.

So, in fact, NOAA has precious little information as to where the fish they are testing come from because fish migrate. That sucks. Where’s SB1070 when you need it?

And this olfactory discussion leaves out the most harmful substance entirely: Corexit.

I guess Scuttles has more faith in the NOAA schnozes than I do, or he has absolutely no soul and will inflict harm upon those he most loves in the world to gain a press clipping. Unless I have this completely wrong and he is protecting those he most loves in the world — his shareholders.

- SH

Note: Our other posts on the dispersant, Corexit, and the impact of the oil spill on the people of the gulf region are here, here, here and here.

8/3 3:00PM UPDATE What Digby said. Great video!

8/3 1:00PM UPDATE: NOAA is finally developing a test for Corexit in Gulf seafood:

NOAA, meanwhile, says its test for dispersants is being developed as a precaution. NOAA’s sensory experts are trained to detect a combination of dispersant and oil in seafood, said Scott Smullen, NOAA spokesman. “But out of an abundance of caution, NOAA is also developing a chemical test to detect COREXIT in marine species in the Gulf, and the test can be applied elsewhere if needed.”

He continued “it’s important to note this is precautionary research because we do not expect to find the components of COREXIT in fish. Dispersants have a low potential to bioconcentrate in fish.” NOAA’s test for dispersants will be introduced soon, and applied to Gulf seafood in the agency’s Seattle lab, he said.

I’d like to say better late than never, but considering that nearly 2 million gallons of Corexit have been dumped into the gulf since early May, I’ll simply say they’re really, really late to the game with this test. The rest of the article is here.

  1. my proboscis smells something fishy…

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