As you may have read or seen in the environment news last month, a BP-leased rig named Deepwater Horizon sunk in the Gulf of Mexico last April 20, 2010 after a blowout and killed eleven people in the incident, not to mention the major oil spill that up to now response teams are having a difficult time stopping. Most oil spills in history are tanker accidents, which means that the oil was released near the water surface, where it is relatively easier to contain. However, the Deepwater Horizon leak is nearly 5,000 feet underneath the surface, and in that depth the pressure is extreme.
Nine days later, the oil spill is worse than expected. BP estimates which were released to the media pin it to about a thousand barrels a day, but the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that the spill is actually five times more than the estimate, which means five thousand barrels a day of oil endangering the coastal wildlife as it approaches their habitats. Dead birds and other animals are already piling up in number as the oil hits coast. Plankton, sand crabs, and fish larvae are also greatly affected, and it is common knowledge that they are the base of the region’s food web.
Fears that the oil spill may very well spread all the way up to North Carolina is in the air, even as a joint federal-industry response team is aggressively combating the spread of the spill. Mother Nature is also doing her own share of fighting, through evaporation, photochemical breakdown and/or dilution. The Gulf of Mexico is resilient, as it has already been the scene of many oil spills in the past, yet somehow manages to bounce back from those ecological disasters. However, recent developments reveal that the oil has already hit the Louisiana marshes, and it is bringing even more fear to the hearts of the citizens there and environmentalists alike.
Said coastal marsh is one of the nurseries for much of the sea life in the region, and are vital to the U.S. seafood industry, not to mention the ecosystem. Added to the fact that it is much more complex to remove oil once it is already in the marshes, and it cannot be denied that we’ve got a major environmental disaster in our hands. While this is clearly a major reputational issue for BO since it is their rig that was the cause of the spill, the repercussions for the environment in the long-run is what’s really at stake.