Oil, Fear, Health Threat Continue To Plague Gulf Waters

No amount of PR can cleanse the oil spill's continuing reality

This page was published 13 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

The chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment said today that BP gets a failing grade for its cleanup efforts in the Gulf. He also castigated federal authorities for grossly underestimating how much oil remains from the BP spill.>

Quoting Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute researchers, The Washington Post reports that a 21-mile plume of oil stretches underwater from the BP oil spill site in the Gulf. A similar report was put out by The New York Times.>

An oceanographer, from the Florida university whose scientists report that most oil from the Gulf spill still remains in the Gulf, is expected to tell a House subcommittee today that the federal government has underestimated impacts of that oil.>

Although initially slow to rush into Gulf waters and lead the clean-up of BP’s oil spill, President Obama and his agencies are showing no hesitancy in rushing to clean up the public relations image of what that oil is doing to Gulf fishing and recreation. In the last few days, we’ve seen:

* Obama swimming along the Florida shoreline with his daughter to show just how clean and fun it is.

* EPA announcing that ¾’s of the 200 million gallons of crude have evaporated into thin air or into the tummies of hungry microbes.

* Various government authorities insisting that Gulf seafood is safe to eat—an insistence that accompanies the opening of shrimp season off the Louisiana coast on Monday.

Fortunately—or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it—many scientists aren’t jumping on the Happy-Days-Are-Here-Again bandwagon.

Just today, university scientists presented findings that challenge EPA’s positive take on things. As the St. Petersburg Times reports:

The oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster is still in the Gulf of Mexico and is causing ecological damage, according to new findings from the University of South Florida…the oil has become toxic to critical marine organisms.

The Florida study also spotlights the unprecedented use of nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants. Toxic in their own right, the dispersants are also part of the ecological havoc, the findings suggest.

Separately, as CNN reports, a different study directly challenges EPA’s insistence that most oil has been disappeared:

A team from Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia released a report that estimates that 70 to 79 percent of the oil that gushed from the well "has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem," the university said in a release.

And yet another scientific study, by the Journal of the American Medical Association, on Monday warned that the oil/dispersant mix poses threats to human health and to the safety of sea food. Read a newspaper report on the study here, and a synopsis of the study here. Time Magazine also reported on the study, merging into it concerns expressed by Gulf coast residents.

No amount of surface swimming by the President and his PR corps are going to eliminate what can’t be seen deep below in the Gulf—nor will it assuage the fear among those who sieve their livelihoods from the Gulf and are as yet unwilling to test its oil-fouled waters.




From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.