BP oil spill disaster 'not over'
Counting the cost: Two years after the deadly Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill,
fishermen and environmentalists say the damage continues. Picture: AP
TWO years after BP oil spill, fishermen and scien
tists in the US Gulf Coast warn the
disaster is not over.
Dead dolphins keep washing up on shore in unprecedented numbers. Oil
coated coral reefs are
dying in the deepwater. Eyeless shrimp and crabs with holes in their shells are showing up in
empty fishing nets while killifish, a minnow
like fish at the base of the food chain,
show signs of chemical poisoning.
And critics say offshore drilling safety and oversight remains woefully lacking.
"Politics continues to triumph over common sense. It's
outrageous that so little progress has been
made to make offshore drilling safer," said Jacqueline Savitz, senior campaign director at the
environmental group Oceana.
"It's not a matter of whether there will be another oil spill, but when."
The April 20, 2
010 explosion on the BP
leased Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers,
blackened beaches in five US states and devastated the Gulf Coast's tourism and fishing
It took 87 days to cap BP's runaway well 1500 metres below the surface that
spewed some 4.9
million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
In an attempt to keep the crude from Louisiana's fragile coastal wetlands, BP sprayed chemical
dispersants directly into the underwater gusher and onto the massive slick.
ong with favorable winds and currents, oil
eating bacteria in the Gulf's warm
waters, the sheer distance of the well from the coast and a fleet of cleanup crews
kept most of
the oil out of the marshes and limited, to an extent, the immediate environmenta
Critics say however the dispersants made it harder to remove the oil from the ecosystem and
created a dangerous chemical soup that was sent deeper into the food chain.
"The oil is still subsurface in the Gulf," said Wilma Subra, a respected chemi
st and activist who
has been testing seafood and sediment samples collected across the Gulf Coast.
"The oil is still present in the wetlands and estuaries and on the beaches. People are continuing to
Despite BP's public assertions that the Gu
lf is on the mend, Ms Subra and other scientists insist it
is far too soon to determine what the long
term environmental impacts will be.
"There are potential new impacts that we haven't even seen yet, but just based on the impacts we
have seen it's going
to be a long time before recovery sets in," Subra said, adding that the effects
of the spill could continue for "generations."
BP has vowed to make residents of the Gulf "whole" and reimburse them for any "legitimate"
On Wednesday, it fin
alised a $US7.8 billion ($7.5 billion) settlement deal to settle thousands of
claims from fishermen and others and has already paid out $US6.3 billion to people and
businesses who chose to sidestep the court process.
It has also pledged $US1 billion to ear
ly restoration projects and will likely be required to spend
more once a lengthy environmental impact study is concluded.
"From the beginning, BP stepped up to meet our obligations to the communities in the Gulf
Coast region, and we've worked hard to deliv
er on that commitment for nearly two years," BP
chief Bob Dudley said in a statement.
"The proposed settlement represents significant progress toward resolving issues from the
Deepwater Horizon accident and contributing further to economic and environmenta
efforts along the Gulf Coast."
Theresa Dardar is among those who lives have been changed by the drilling disaster.
She lives in Bayou Pointe
Chien, a Native American fishing community on Louisiana's Gulf
Coast her family has called home fo
r 300 years.
Ms Dardar and her neighbours have watched their coastal lands get slowly swallowed by the sea
after canals built by the oil companies brought salt water into freshwater marshes.
Now she fears that her family's livelihood could disappear.
are you going to make us whole if we lose our fishing industry?" she asked of BP. "I don't
think they can answer me," Ms Dardar said.
That fear is echoed in coastal communities across the Gulf Coast.
"We're suffering," said George Barisich, president of th
e United Commercial Fisherman's
Despite the checks rolling in from BP, Mr Barisich said some fishermen could still end up losing
Many were just getting their finances back on track after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in
5 when the BP spill closed a third of Gulf waters to fishing.
While the waters may be open now with assurances that the seafood is safe to eat, prices are
down, costs are up and the harvest has been disappointing.
A third generation fisherman from St Berna
rd Parish south of New Orleans, Mr Barisich
employed eight people and pulled in annual profits of up to $US100,000 in the years leading up
to the spill.
Last year he had two employees, and he lost $US40,000. He blames BP.