Dr. Susan Shaw, Director of the Marine Environmental Research Institute talks about oilspill

BP Slick

Disaster in Gulf - The Aftermath

Latest News

Disaster in the Gulf-5-18-2011

This post is from the Great Blog of Earth Island Journal

A House Divided

Louisianans, One Year After the Spill

Following the news about the Gulf of Mexico one year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster can be like reading “A Tale of Two Places.” The ocean, the wetlands, the fish, and the birds are recovering, according to some people. Others say the mess left at the bottom of the sea by the BP blowout threatens to wreak havoc on the ocean food web for years to come. Most people, we hear, are all right. Or, we are told, some are getting sick.

Which tale is true? For many Gulf residents, especially those from Louisiana, the state hardest hit by the spill, the answer might be Both.

The choice of what to say about the BP spill reveals a tension between the private narratives Louisianans tell themselves and their families and the public narratives they share with the rest of the world. Many Louisianans express frustration at the national media’s habit of showing images of oiled birds and dead dolphins; it only depresses tourist bookings and seafood sales, they complain. Other Louisianans say the pictures of destruction are necessary, a way to hold BP accountable for its actions; there’s no use jumping on what one local wit dubbed “The Streetcar Named Denial.”

The tough decisions about how to describe the spill reflect Louisianans’ split loyalties, which are divided between the fishing culture – the heart of the state’s identity – and the oil industry, the backbone of its economy. Since the 1930s, the two have been intimately connected: Many fishermen work the rigs in the off-season, and some of the best fishing spots are found near abandoned platforms, where sea life flourishes. In Louisiana, there’s nothing odd about celebrating the annual Shrimp and Petroleum Festival.

The tension is exacerbated by the widespread resentment over BP’s settlement process. Out of the $20 billion set aside for damage claims, only $3.4 billion has been disbursed by settlement czar Kenneth Feinberg. Some fishermen have been made whole. Others have received nothing. In New Orleans, dishwashers at restaurants unaffected by the spill have received $10,000 checks. Louisianans say the system is opaque, arbitrary, and just plain unfair. There are complaints about the sudden appearance of “Spillionaires.”

Then there’s the issue of the spill’s impact on the health of shoreline communities. Residents whisper darkly about a “Gulf Plague” – odd ailments and illnesses, especially among those involved in the cleanup effort. On YouTube, there are legions of videos featuring fishermen and cleanup workers describing their health problems. Yet not until this March did federal officials decide to launch a long-range study of Gulf residents’ health. While some Louisianans warn of a coverup, others snicker at the conspiracy theories of those they’ve branded “Gulf Truthers.” The pendulum of public opinion swings between paranoia and the glib assurances of the Pollyannas. One local calls it “analysis paralysis.”

The swirl of rumors, the logjam of lawsuits, the annoyance with national reporters who parachuted into the area on April 20 and left the very next day – all of it has cooked into a gumbo of cynicism. If the feelings of Louisianans a year after BP’s disaster seem contradictory, that’s because they are. They are contradictory just like the pain of life, the pain of a place and a people that are wounded. The stories of those wounds can be hard to convey to outsiders. Which is why it’s best to let Louisianans speak for themselves.

photo of a man speaking on a dock near fishing gear

The Sportsman

As the editor of a hunting and fishing magazine called Louisiana Sportsman, Todd Masson hears often from friends, relatives, and readers who are concerned about eating Gulf seafood in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. There’s no need to worry, he tells them. “Our fish, crabs, and oysters are no less safe to eat today than they were two years ago,” he wrote recently. As for those who might have made a killing in the BP settlement process? “If you actually came out ahead, then my hat’s off to you.”

Sport fishing is an essential thread in the fabric of Louisiana’s culture. We have 40 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands, built over millennia by the Mississippi River, and as such we are the nursery grounds for the Gulf. Our fishing is spectacular, and most weekend family gatherings involve something from our local marshes – fried, boiled, baked, or broiled. When commercial and recreational fishing was outlawed last summer in the wake of the spill, it isn’t overstating things to say that people grieved. It was like a pillar of our society had been severed.

Business is certainly down. The media presented so many misleading stories during the days of the spill that everyone in the country now has the perception that the lower fringes of Louisiana’s marsh are just dripping with crude oil. That’s obviously not the case. I had some national writers down in October, and for three days we fished the marshes all around the mouth of the Mississippi River – ground zero for spill impact – and they were absolutely astounded that we didn’t see one drop of oil.

The BP oil spill had absolutely no impact on the health of current-day seafood or the prospects for its progeny. Unrefined crude oil is a natural substance that is broken down, weathered and absorbed by nature remarkably quickly in a warm, dynamic system like that of the northern Gulf. To wit, there have been literally thousands of studies of Gulf seafood, and not one single sample has come back contaminated. After conducting these studies, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals determined a diner would have to consume nine pounds of fish, five pounds of oysters, or 63 pounds of shrimp every day for five years to reach any level of concern.

The Activist

Linda Leavitt’s Cajun roots go back to the 1700s, and though her family’s tradition of news reporting may not be as long, to Leavitt, whose parents both worked for NBC News, it feels equally strong. “My mother would say, ‘You go on down there, Linda, you get the story.’” Which she has, working as a citizen-journalist to gather photographs and video of the spill’s consequence, coordinating campaigns on Facebook, and watchdogging BP on Twitter. “You got to get the word out,” she says.

It was so sad, when you saw the oil coming over the boom, that we were so helpless engineering-wise to keep this out. That sediment can wash up with the tide, and the sad part is they know there are submerged tar mats. Hurricane season is 45 days away. That tar mat is going to wash ashore.

photo of a woman in a cypress woodland, holding an umbrella with 'save the gulf' written on it
Linda Leavitt

You can rage against the machine all you want, but the reality is you have a corporation that is incredibly negligent from a safety perspective. I’m a great believer in the truth. I’m a great believer in giving people the information so they can make the honest judgments. The more you cover it up, hide it, and whitewash it, then you get crazy-assed conspiracy theorists, everybody out there thinking the worst. That’s what happens in a closed society with closed information. That’s not the America I grew up in. I grew up in an America where information should be made public for public safety.

The dynamic with a lot of people who may be afraid to come forward and talk is fear that other people’s livelihoods are based on the oil companies and they don’t want to rock that boat, or shrimping is their livelihood, so they don’t want to rock the boat. There is a lot of that in small communities, fear of being the first one to come out and say something on the record.

Here’s the crux: There’s always been this unspoken acknowledgement between the oil industry and the fishermen, the Cajuns and other people who made their livelihoods on the water, that if something goes down, if something happens, we’ll take care of you. And that’s not happening. It’s a big disappointment.

The Philanthropist

When BP began spraying Corexit, Joannie Hughes, a single mom from Plaquemines Parish, started worrying about the rain. Could the chemical oil dispersant evaporate and return via precipitation? She had tests run, garnered some local news, then someone posted a sign on her front yard that read, “It’s not the rain water that’s going to kill you.” Frightened for her family, she decided the best she could do was to start a nonprofit, Coastal Heritage Society of Louisiana, to assist out-of-work families. “I backed off, right or wrong, and continued the humanitarian part of the work, because that’s where I felt I could at least make some difference.”

Murky Waters

“A deathtrap of mucus gashing through the water like flypaper.” That’s how Samantha Joye, a professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia, describes the effect of the oil and gas from last summer’s disaster on the delicate marine organisms that inhabit the depths of the Gulf of Mexico.

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, Joye’s research team was among the earliest on the scene and the first to report huge underwater plumes …more…

It’s been an interesting road. We knew we couldn’t clean up the oil. We knew we couldn’t stop people from drilling. What we could do is feed some families that were suffering who had not been paid. Because legitimate claims have been denied.

We’re a bunch of moms, not a million-dollar organization. We delivered to one family and she asked if another family got a box of food. She immediately called the other family to come over and split the food, so instead of one family eating for five days, two families ate for two and a half days. That’s the kind of community it is. No one can ever say people here don’t help themselves, because they do. So far CHSL has given food box deliveries to over 300 families. We’re very good shoppers.

With saltwater intrusion, we’re losing the cypress at a phenomenal rate, and that’s pre-spill. So if we don’t start restoring by planting new ones, it’s going to be gone before my grandchildren are ever out there in a pirogue.

We are planting seedlings of cypress trees complete with nutria-resistant wire. You can plant a tree in someone’s honor, we send you a picture, GPS coordinates, and long term it helps fight erosion in our wetlands. We’re doing it all the way down in the marsh. We’re literally down there with our waders planting the trees and we love for volunteers to come down and help us plant them too.

I try to explain that we are part of that ecosystem. We haven’t been the best stewards, but we do count at least as much as the grass shrimp.

The Fisherman

Jason Adams has known only shrimping or working for the oil industry. He started fishing with his parents, he says, when “I was in diapers.” When the Macondo well blew out, Adams, a native of the bayou town of Galliano, worked briefly for BP doing cleanup work, but soon became resentful of how many jobs were going to guys from Houston. Today, he’s working as a tugboat captain. But, he says, “I’d rather fish.”

I worked it with my boat and let me tell you, I got into some of that oil with the Corexit. I thought I was going to die. Sick, can’t breathe. And the other side effect, I’m mentally sick because there’s such uncertainty. The postlarva of the white shrimp and the brown shrimp [are in danger] – once that contamination reaches the estuaries and all that, it’s a done deal. You know my little boy, sometimes he cries. He said, ‘Dad, what if I won’t be able to go shrimping anymore?’

photo of a man, thoughtful

It’s fine right now way up in the estuaries. But what’s it going to be like five years from now? The bottom line is that they sunk the oil. I don’t know how many millions of gallons of the Corexit they put in there.

I’m going to tell you what’s going to make that catastrophe – that first tropical depression. The first real southeast wind we had the other day, that’s when the oil came up on the beach.

A lot of the fishermen, it messed up their livelihoods. They can’t work, they’re sick. Their backs are against the wall right now. They tell me, ‘I won’t be able to work, but yet they want to come offer me $300,000, not for my livelihood, they’re offering me that for my life.’ The people that were in it, that got sprayed, that worked in that oil – they’re just buying their life.

Ninety percent of the people would rather be doing what they love to do. Fishermen are resilient people. You think a fisherman wants to collect money from BP and sit in his house? He’d go stir crazy. When it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. You’re doing what you want to do.

Karen Dalton Beninato is a freelance writer from New Orleans who has covered the BP oil spill for The Huffington Post. Her website is KarenDaltonBeninato.com. A resident of New Orleans and a Bayou Lacombe Choctaw Indian, Stacy Revere’s photography can be viewed at slrevere.photoshelter.com.

This story was partially funded through micro-donations via Spot.Us

NAD metabolism in Vibrio cholerae.

NAD metabolism in Vibrio cholerae. J W Foster and C Brestel Abstract Extracts of Vibrio cholerae were assayed for various enzymatic activities associated with pyridine nucleotide cycle metabolism. The activities measured include NAD glycohydrolase, nicotinamide deamidase, nicotinamide mononucleotide deamidase, and nicotinic acid phosphoribosyltransferase. The results obtained demonstrate the existence in V. cholerae of the five-membered pyridine nucleotide cycle and the potential for a four-membered pyridine nucleotide cycle. The data presented also suggest that most of the NAD glycohydrolase in V. cholerae extracts is not directly related to cholera toxin. Full text Full text is available as a scanned copy of the original print version. Get a printable copy (PDF file) of the complete article (619K), or click on a page image below to browse page by page. Links to PubMed are also available for Selected References.

The Mississippi Coast as photographed by me on Oct. 7, 2010

Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil Gulf oil spill,oil spill,Gulf Coast,wildlife,oil

CNN Political Ticker


Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day of remembrance for 11 killed in Deepwater Horizon explosion

Day of remembrance for 11 killed in Deepwater Horizon explosion

Cain Burdeau and Harry Weber / Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Relatives of some of the 11 men who died aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are flying over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, back to the epicenter of the worst offshore oil spill in the nation's history.

Meanwhile, on land, vigils were scheduled in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to mark the spill.

On the night of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, a rig owned by Transocean Ltd., burst into flames after drilling a well for BP PLC, killing 11 workers on or near the drilling floor. The rest of the crew evacuated, but two days later the rig toppled into the Gulf and sank to the sea floor. The bodies were never recovered.

Over the next 85 days, 206 million gallons of oil -- 19 times more than the Exxon Valdez spilled -- spewed from the well. In response, the nation commandeered the largest offshore fleet of vessels since D-Day, and BP spent billions of dollars to clean up the mess, saving itself from collapse.

"I can't believe tomorrow has been one year because it seems like everything just happened," Courtney Kemp, whose husband Roy Wyatt Kemp was killed on the rig, wrote on her Facebook page  Tuesday. "I have learned a lot of things through all of this but the most important is to live each day as if it were your last ... what matters is if you truly live."

Natalie Roshto, whose husband Shane Roshto also died on the rig, posted a message on Courtney Kemp's Facebook page on Tuesday evening: "Can't believe it's been a year.. It has brought a lot of tears and a great friendship I'm Soooo thankful for.. We are a strong force together!! Love u sista."

In a statement, President Barack Obama paid tribute to those killed in the blast and thanked the thousands of responders who "worked tirelessly to mitigate the worst impacts" of the oil spill.

"But we also keep a watchful eye on the continuing and important work required to ensure that the Gulf Coast recovers stronger than before," Obama said in the statement.

The president said significant progress has been made but the work isn't done.

Transocean invited up to three members of each family to attend the flyover. They were expected to circle the site a few times in a helicopter, though there is no visible marker identifying where their loved ones perished. At the bottom of the sea, 11 stars were imprinted on the well's final cap.

Several families said they didn't want to go on the flyover, and Transocean decided to not allow media on the flight or at a private service later in the day in Houston.

The solemn ceremonies marking the disaster underscore the delicate healing that is only now taking shape. Oil still occasionally rolls up on beaches in the form of tar balls, and fishermen face an uncertain future.

Louis and Audrey Neal of Pass Christian, Miss., who make their living from crabbing, said it's gotten so bad since the spill that they're contemplating divorce and facing foreclosure as the bills keep piling up.

"I don't see any daylight at the end of this tunnel. I don't see any hope at all. We thought we'd see hope after a year, but there's nothing," Audrey Neal said.

"We ain't making no money. There's no crabs," said Louis Neal, a lifelong crabber.

"I'm in the worst shape I've ever been in my whole damn life. I'm about to lose my whole family," he said. "I can't even pay the loans I have out there. That's how bad it's gotten."

His wife said the financial hit was only part of the past year's toll. "Our lives are forever changed," she said. "Our marriage, our children, it's all gotten 100 percent worse."

She said the couple received about $53,000 from BP early on, but that was just enough money to cover three months of debt. They haven't received a dime from an administrator handing out compensation from a $20 billion fund set up by BP, they said.

Still, it's not all so bleak.

Traffic jams on the narrow coastal roads of Alabama, crowded seafood restaurants in Florida and families vacationing along the Louisiana coast attest to the fact that familiar routines are returning, albeit slowly.

"We used to fuss about that," said Ike Williams, referring to the heavy traffic headed for the water in Gulf Shores, Ala., where he rents chairs and umbrellas to beachgoers. "But it was such a welcome sight."

Many questions still linger: Will the fishing industry recover? Will the environment bounce back completely? Will an oil-hungry public ever accept more deepwater drilling?

"It seems like it is all gone," said Tyler Priest, an oil historian at the University of Houston. "People have turned their attention elsewhere. But it will play out like Exxon Valdez did. There will be 20 years of litigation."

Most scientists agree the effects "were not as severe as many had predicted," said Christopher D'Elia, dean at the School of the Coast and Environment at Louisiana State University. "People had said this was an ecological Armageddon, and that did not come to pass."

Biologists are concerned about the spill's long-term effect on marine life.

"There are these cascading effects," D'Elia said. "It could be accumulation of toxins in the food chain, or changes in the food web. Some species might dominate."

Meanwhile, accumulated oil is believed to lie on the bottom of the Gulf, and it still shows up as a thick, gooey black crust along miles of Louisiana's marshy shoreline. Scientists have begun to notice that the land in many places is eroding.

For example, on Cat Island, a patch of land where pelicans and reddish egrets nest among the black mangroves, Associated Press photographs taken a year ago compared with those taken recently show visible loss of land and a lack of vegetation.

"Last year, those mangroves were healthy, dark green. This year they're not," said Todd Baker, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Land is eroding on sites where the oil has killed vegetation, he said.

On a tour of the wetlands Tuesday, Robert Barham, Louisiana's wildlife secretary, showed reporters the lingering damage.

Roseau cane is growing again where it was cut away during early cleanup efforts, but Barham said the 3- to 4-foot-high stalks should be a lush green. Instead, they were pale green and brown.

"It's because of oil in the root system," Barham said. He put his hand into the dirt and pulled up mud saturated with oil. Tossing the sludge into nearby water, it released a rainbow-colored sheen.

Barham complained that BP had not done enough to clean the area. "What they've done thus far is not working."

In the remote Louisiana marsh, there's still yellow boom in  places -- not to keep oil out but to keep the tides from carrying oil to untouched areas.

Confidence in Louisiana's seafood is eroding, too.

"Where I'm fishing it all looks pretty much the same," said Glen Swift, a 62-year-old fisherman in Buras. He's catching catfish and gar in the lower Mississippi River again. That's not the problem.

"I can't sell my fish," he said. "The market's no good."

But the BP spill has faded from the headlines, overtaken by the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, unrest in the Middle East and political clashes in Washington.

"Nationally, BP seems like a dim and distant memory," said Douglas Brinkley, a Rice University historian. But the accident will have long-lasting influence on environmental history, he said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving me your comment.

AJ video

For all of us living along the Gulf Coast, did you have the worse "sinus infection" of your life this past winter? I sure did. My ears still hurt. Doctor looks at them and sees nothing there causing my ear pain. WHOA, then I came across this video. I am adding a comments box right below this. Please add how you are feeling if you are in any of the Gulf Coast area affected by the BP OILSPILL. Thank you! Leesa