Update on the Gulf Oil Spill
The Press-Register notes today:
degraded oil collected in the Mississippi Sound has tested positive
for several of the main ingredients in the Corexit dispersant used in
connection with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to
scientists working for a New Orleans-based lawyer.
with the federal government and BP PLC have maintained throughout the
oil spill that no dispersant products have been used near shorelines in
Alabama or Mississippi.
Marco Kaltofen, part of the
group of scientists who found the oil in Mississippi Sound, said it was
impossible to determine when the dispersant had been applied to the
oil. Results from the tests, which were conducted in a Colorado
laboratory, indicated the oil was from the Deepwater Horizon well, he
“EPA samples found only one indication of
dispersant near shore in Louisiana. That location was sampled several
times with no other detection,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
spokeswoman Terri White said in a Monday e-mail. “There is no
authorization to apply any dispersant at this time. If anyone has
information about this, they need to report it immediately so it can be
investigated and referred to law enforcement.”
the lawyer who funded Kaltofen’s sampling expedition, discounted the
notion that dispersants had not been used near shore.
personally saw C-130s applying dispersants from my hotel room in the
Florida Panhandle. They were spraying directly adjacent to the beach
right at dusk,” said Smith. “Fishermen I’ve talked to say they’ve been
sprayed. This idea they are not using this stuff near the coast is
Other tests are coming back positive for dispersant as well.
BP Tells Experienced Gulf Fishermen that They Don't Know the Difference Between Oil and Seafloor Muck
The Pensacola News Journal notes:
fisherman Mark Fuqua, 47, of Pensacola, who has fished the waters from
Destin to Pensacola most of his life, discovered just how big the mess
is on the first day he struck out to drop a line in the water since
the fishing ban was lifted two weeks ago.
After a day of fishing in several areas of the bay on Wednesday, his boat, anchor and cast net were covered in oil.
never seen anything like it," he said. "I was fishing in front of
Palafox Pier and pulled up my anchor, and it looked like it had black
mud on it. I reached down to try to wipe it off and it was all greasy,
like greasy sand."
The anchor was dropped in 20 feet of water.
Piggott, who heads the Escambia and Santa Rosa cleanup operation for
BP] said the reports from fishermen about finding oil often are not
heard accounts of people who hold up their anchors that have this black
stuff on it," he said. "I can't tell you how many times we've gotten
reports from fishermen with sightings of sheen and oil. Ninety-nine
percent of the time, these reports turn out to be organic material."
Fuqua said Piggott's statement "sounds typical."
is really counting on that out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing. It's there
and they know it," he said. "They need to be exposed and made to do
something about it."
Sure, and the oil plumes and
dispersant which experienced scientists think they are finding in the
Gulf are really just kelp, and the dead animals which people see are
really just sleeping, and the rashes and breathing problems coastal
residents exposed to the dispersant are suffering are really just
Meanwhile, back in the real world:
- A tidal wave of oil is, supposedly, about to hit shore: "A 200-foot-by-2-mile swath of oil is going to make landfall on Grand Isle in the next couple of days"
- Much of the oil has only been temporarily hidden by continued spraying of dispersant, which is causing the oil to sink, where common oil-eating microbes can't break it down (and the jury is out on other species), but will instead be washed up for years by the action of hurricanes
- The boys tried to fish out 3 pieces of broken pipe (one of them 3,000-3,500 feet long and attached to the blowout preventer), but failed miserably, apparently because of the fragile condition of the pipe
- Now the three stooges experts are going to try to remove the blowout preventer anyway, even if the pipe sticks to it, but may damage the casing hangar in the process, which would mean oil is leaking (and see this)
As oil industry expert Bob Cavnar writes today:
Allen announced today that BP's fishing job being undertaken on their
Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well has been called off due to total failure.
You'll recall that I disagreed with the procedure when it was
announced on the 21st, believing it was unwise and risky. After now
attempting to fish out the drill pipe (actually 3 pieces) for several
days, they have called off the job after completely failing at achieving
their goal. Previously, Adm. Allen had said that they wanted to get
all the drill pipe out before pulling the BOP (which I also think is
unwise), and replacing it with the BOP from the DDII before completing
the relief well.***
They're going to pull the damn BOP anyway. That's right, they're going to pull the BOP anyway. What's amazing is that they're
pulling it with an estimated 3,000 feet of drill pipe hanging in a set
of rams, as well as two other smaller pieces in the stack and God
knows what else. Admiral Allen said they're setting an overpull
limit of 80,000 pounds over stack weight to pull it free, worried that
more would dislodge the casing hanger and packoff that are supposedly
in the casing hanger. They couldn't get the camera in that far down,
but they still continue to assume that all that is somehow still in
place after the well blowing out and flowing for 87 days, probably
right through where they say the packoff is set. Not likely. Allen
says they're going to actually try to pull the drill pipe, still hung
in the rams and then, while suspending the BOP above the casinghead,
cut the drill pipe with ROVs and drop it back in the well.Probability of success of getting that done? Almost zero.
As Rick Steiner told Dan Froomkin this week:
I smell politics all over it. The only plausible explanation is they were in a rush to hang the 'Mission Accomplished' banner.
New Orleans attorney Stuart Smith knows something about radiation from oil drilling:
Smith is well known for his role as lead counsel in an oilfield radiation case that resulted in a verdict of $1.056 billion
against ExxonMobil for contaminating land it leased from the Grefer
family in Harvey, Louisiana –– and attempting to cover it up.
court stated that from June 1986 to March 1987, “Exxon officials
intentionally withheld information,” and that the company “knew the
[radioactive] scale posed a direct danger to the physical health of
those workers.” Oilfield waste, or TERM, is primarily composed of
radium, a highly radioactive chemical element. Exposure to radium is
known to cause a variety of devastating illnesses, including cancer.
Radium’s impact on the human body is particularly acute because it is
similar chemically to calcium –– and as such is frequently absorbed
into bones after entering the body.
But at least there's no radiation being released from BP's oil spill in the Gulf, right?
Well, as Smith wrote on August 4th:
This is directly from the EPA website discussing oil drilling activity:
processes may leave behind waste containing concentrations of
naturally-occurring radioactive material (NORM) from the surrounding
soils and rocks. Once exposed or concentrated by human activity, this
naturally-occurring material becomes Technologically-Enhanced NORM or
TENORM. Radioactive materials are not necessarily present in the soils
at every well or drilling site. However in some areas of the country, such as the upper Midwest or Gulf Coast states, the soils are more like to contain radioactive material.”
wastes from oil and gas drilling take the form of produced water,
drilling mud, sludge, slimes, or evaporation ponds and pits. It can
also concentrate in the mineral scales that form in pipes (pipe scale),
storage tanks, or other extraction equipment. Radionuclides in these
wastes are primarily radium-226, radium-228, and radon gas. The radon
is released to the atmosphere, while the produced water and mud
containing radium are placed in ponds or pits for evaporation, re-use,
“The people most likely to be exposed to this
source of radiation are workers at the site. They may inhale radon gas
which is released during drilling and produced by the decay of radium,
raising their risk of lung cancer. In addition, they are exposed to
alpha and gamma radiation released during the decay of radium-226 and
the low-energy gamma radiation and beta particles released by the decay
of radium-228. (Gamma radiation can also penetrate the skin and raise
the risk of cancer.) Workers following safety guidance will reduce
their total on-site radiation exposure.”
It’s time BP comes clean as to the levels and amounts of radioactive material released from this oil spill.
Here's the EPA website which Smith is quoting.
This is not to
say that radiation is being released from the well at dangerous levels
for the general public. Obviously, BP and the government should be
pressed to release all radiation test results (or to do them if they
haven't already). I haven't heard any information indicating dangerous
levels, and I'll assume for now that radiation
levels in the Gulf as a whole are low and not much more than background
However, for the clean
up workers, and when it is concentrated in landfills, crude oil from the
Gulf might be a real health threat. As Smith writes:
is all bad enough at the spill and cleanup sites, and it’s not nearly
the near-term danger of all the toxins in the oil-dispersant stew. But
it can become a danger when you start concentrating it in normal
landfills. Remember, oil was exempted from hazmat regulations for
political reasons, not because it’s not hazardous.
And, as far as
we can tell, nobody is even testing the BP waste going into those
landfills and if the oil company knows radiation levels, we can expect
them to keep it secret. Hey, this is the company that required a
Congressional order and a Federal Court Subpoena just to release video
of the spill … we have no way of knowing what else they’re not telling
And it’s not comforting that the EPA, which allowed BP to use
toxic dispersant to hide the oil and is now minimizing what’s left
through bogus science, and the Coast Guard, which allowed dispersant
use even in excess of what the EPA approved, are in charge of all this.
And the EPA knows better, of course.
Veteran chemist Bob Naman says that Corexit is still being sprayed in the Gulf, and that he found 13.3 parts per million in Cotton Bayou, Alabama.
As I pointed out last week:
Parts per million might not sound like much.
But the EPA has found that exposure to 42 parts per million killed 50% of mysid shrimp within 4 days (and most of the remaining shrimp didn't last much longer).
response to Naman's findings, the mayor of Orange Beach - the town
located on Cotton Bayou - said that the City would conduct its own,
The City's test results have now come back, showing 66 parts per million of dispersant.
The City Engineer for Orange Beach - Kit Alexander - also states that the EPA sets the screening level for dispersant at 750
parts per million (see above video). In other words, the EPA doesn't
even test for Corexit at concentrations of less than 750 ppm, even
though Corexit at much lower concentrations kills marine life.
I have personally been copied with emails sent to the Coast Guard documenting continued spraying of Corexit.
And yesterday, toxicologist Dr. Ricki Ott sent [an outstanding] letter to the EPA which summarizes evidence of ongoing use of dispersants in the Gulf.