Wednesday marked the six-month anniversary of oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig operated by BP, exploded killing 11 workers and launching the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.
Before it was finally sealed, the deep-water well belched 206 million gallons of oil into the fragile ecosystem, and threatened marine environments thousands of miles away.
Six-months later, the media crews and investigative reporters have all gone home, and many Americans have started to forget about the disaster that captured their attention for so many weeks.
To the Gulf Coast families and businesses that are still picking up the pieces, however, it’s hard to tell whether any progress has been made toward cleaning up the mess that Big Oil left behind.
What’s Been Done
Seven lawsuits have been initiated in response to the Gulf Disaster: One lawsuit, to stop the burning of sea turtles in “controlled burns” of surface oil slicks, met with rapid success: just days after it was filed by the Center for Biodiversity this summer, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard agreed to protect turtles in those burn areas.
Under the direction of Kenneth Feinberg, the Gulf Coast Claims Facility has paid $1.08 billion of a $20 billion fund to about 50,000 claimants as of Oct. 6, according to statistics posted on its website.
According to the International Bird Rescue Research Center, more than 8,100 birds were officially affected by the spill. Of those, 6,100 were collected dead. The IBRRC worked with Tri-State Bird Rescue to help stabilize, treat and clean as many oiled birds as possible. More than 1,200 birds were released back to the wild.
The Interior Department issued new rules governing areas like well casing and cementing, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training (NY Times).
The deepwater drilling moratorium put in place by president Obama in the midst of the spill was lifted weeks before it’s November 30th deadline.
What’s Needs To Be Done
True clean up of public beaches and marsh areas. While the oily goo may have been skimmed away from the surface of the waves, BP and the Federal government would rather you didn’t realize it’s still lingering in the water (in tiny “dispersed” droplets) and under the sand.
Scientific research has only just begun into the real impacts of the spill on seafood and agricultural industries. Many members of the Louisiana Oystermen Association report that their oyster beds are all dead or dying- yet members of the NOAA continue to tell the public to eat Gulf seafood and let their children play in the water.
Despite the fact that oil may have visibly disappeared, independent researchers say they are discovering significant amounts of crude below the sea’s surface, including on the ocean floor (MNN).
All new drilling needs to be halted until more is known about how sick the Gulf really is, and until oil companies can guarantee that a repeat oil spill won’t happen (hint: they can’t).
Image Credit: Flickr - deepwaterhorizonresponse