After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, more than 200 million gallons of oil flowed out of the Macondo well and into the Gulf of Mexico before the leak was finally plugged. Add to that the nearly two million gallons of the dispersant Corexit subsequently applied to the spill and it’s no wonder that the government, scientists and the public alike are wondering what sort of effects this chemical cocktail will have on the Gulf ecosystem, and especially seafood. While the mainstream media has widely covered the debate over seafood safety, these stories do not delve into the science behind the issue, nor do they highlight the dangers that chemically dispersed oil poses to the marine food web. Not only is there concern about the current safety of Gulf seafood, but there are concerns about the long-term effects dispersed oil may have on fish populations, further jeopardizing Gulf fisheries in the future. - Seafood at risk: Dispersed oil poses a long-term threat
The Gulf may have been better off if no Corexit was used at all. That’s what the preliminary reports of studies by the Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute are saying. It seems that most of the experiments resulted with: Most of the time the mix of Corexit and oil was more toxic to the phytoplankton in the sample than oil alone. Additionally, the Corexit did not prompt the oil-eating bacteria in the samples to gobble the oil any faster. Evidence also is growing that the Corexit did not degrade as promised. A study in January by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts indicated that Corexit applied at the well-head — some 800,000 gallons — did nothing to break up the oil and simply drifted into the ecosystem. The dispersant effectively kept a great deal of the oil at sea, where it was not easily visible to the public. Although as much as half the oil that spewed from the well -- 186 million to 227 million gallons -- is unaccounted for, plenty of it still washed ashore, from the border of Texas to the Florida Panhandle. - Did spill chemical worsen matters? GULF: Research indicates ecosystem may have been better off without Corexit, Herald-Tribune, May 31, 2011
Apr 13, 2011
Damn. I’m trying to wrap my mind around this turn of events, but honestly, a lot of us knew it would start happening.
This is a video put out by CNN that is a must watch. There is a “10-fold increase” in the number of dolphins dying in the months of January and February. The majority of them are calves or baby dolphins. They are dying soon after they are born, according to this video. They are also being found everywhere from Mississippi to Florida.
What you guys need to understand is that this is the first dolphin birthing season since the oil spill. The dolphins being born right now were conceived around February, March and April of last year. Dolphins have an 11 – 12 month gestation period. Think about it for a minute. If you or someone you knew was pregnant and their doctor asked them to bathe with Raid, RoundUp, and Pool Chemicals for their entire pregnancy…would there be the chance of a stillbirth or a miscarriage? Absolutely. Well, this is exactly what is happening with the dolphins.
The Corexit that these mama dolphins have been living in for a year has claimed the lives of their children.
However, the federal government is trying (for the millionth time) to blame this on cold water or red tide. I’ve been in the gulf for many years and I can tell you that I’ve been around for algae blooms, red tide and cold snaps. This is unprecedented.
Here is a great article from Denise Rednour who wrote about the fact that even though samples of the dead dolphins are being taken, they aren’t being reviewed by the federal government because they are part of an “ongoing criminal investigation against BP”. Oh really? The feds want us to believe that they are really going to prosecute BP for some dolphin deaths? No, what they are trying to do is keep a lid on the continuing shit storm that is the BP oil spill in the gulf.
What I want (and most of us, I believe also want) is transparency. We want to know what the hell is really going on in our backyards. We want the truth. Do we get the truth? No, we get a pack of lies, a pack of false truths. Have you seen this video of a former BP cleanup worker who is struggling with Corexit poisoning? It’s very intense and shows the physical effects of what Corexit is doing.
This woman, Lisa Nelson of Orange Beach, Alabama passed away on March 7, 2011. This is a video journal of her battle with Corexit poisoning before her death.
Please click here to go to Dr. Rikki Ott’s website if you or someone you love is being affected by the affects of Corexit poisoning.
This isn’t propaganda, folks. People and animals are dying. The effects of Corexit have been kept underground for too long and it needs to stop. Many of us have been out here talking about Corexit for almost a year and nothing is still being done to help the victims of the oil spill.
President Obama, please pull your head out of your ass and realize that this oil spill is larger than you, it’s larger than your government, it’s larger than all of us. The gulf needs transparency about the affects of Corexit and we need qualified medical personnel in the gulf to help.
April 20, 2011
The two-hour drive from New Orleans to Venice, La., is like cutting into a slice of apple pie—it’s as American as it gets. Busy streets and high-rise buildings give way to farms, fields, and wetlands, in the perfect picture of rural, small-town America. With the exception of the occasional oil refinery or church, most buildings in Plaquemines Parish stand no more than a single story high. Driving down Louisiana Highway 23, the sole road in and out of the parish, it is clear to see that fishing is a way of life down here; boats or fishing traps are present in the front yards of most homes. The community here is evidence of the seafood industry being one of the leading sources of income and the highest employers in Louisiana. According to a fisheries economics report from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico harvested 1.27 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish and earned $659 million in total landings revenue in 2008.
Seafood is more than just catch sizes and dollar signs, though. Go to any restaurant along any beach in the Gulf, and you’ll likely find a menu full of grouper sandwiches and crab legs, shrimp baskets and oysters on the half shell. Seafood isn’t just a source of food or a way to make a living here–it’s a way of life, and an inherent piece of Gulf Coast culture. It is a culture that has been put in jeopardy as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20, 2010, more than 200 million gallons of oil flowed out of the Macondo well and into the Gulf of Mexico before the leak was finally plugged. Add to that the nearly two million gallons of the dispersant Corexit subsequently applied to the spill and it’s no wonder that the government, scientists and the public alike are wondering what sort of effects this chemical cocktail will have on the Gulf ecosystem, and especially seafood. While the mainstream media has widely covered the debate over seafood safety, these stories do not delve into the science behind the issue, nor do they highlight the dangers that chemically dispersed oil poses to the marine food web. Not only is there concern about the current safety of Gulf seafood, but there are concerns about the long-term effects dispersed oil may have on fish populations, further jeopardizing Gulf fisheries in the future.
Eric Schwaab, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service explains in a press release the joint protocol established by federal and state agencies to ensure seafood safety.
"No single agency could adequately ensure the safety of seafood coming from the Gulf following this tragedy," he notes, "but in working together, we can be sure that tainted waters are closed as appropriate, contaminated seafood is not allowed to make it to market, and that closed waters can be reopened to fishing as soon as it is safe."
On April 19, 2011, almost one year to the day of when the Deepwater Horizon disaster first began, NOAA reopened the last section of the Gulf that was once closed to fishing. With all federal waters currently reopened, the question still remains— is the government responding appropriately to ensure not only that the present levels of oil and dispersants are not toxic, but also that those levels won’t build up over time through the accumulation of toxins in the tissues of seafood, contaminating Gulf seafood for generations to come?
Quick to Close, Quick to Open?
Seafood testing, began almost immediately after the spill, and lasted several months and re-testing will occur into the summer. To conduct these tests, government vessels have systematically sampled seafood from across the Gulf by using a grid system.. The samples collected must successfully pass both a sensory test by experts trained in sniffing out trace amounts of oil, and chemical testing in a laboratory.
"Once you’ve opened up the areas, the government has deemed that the product is safe," says Steven Wilson, chief quality officer for NOAA’s Fisheries Seafood Inspection Program.
Some scientists are not as optimistic about the safety of Gulf seafood.
"Any ‘all clear’ should be tempered with caution, because there’s still oil there, it’s still moving around, and so areas that seem clear now could become affected as these plumes drift around in the ocean," says Gina Solomon, a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-director of the University of California at San Francisco Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency and Fellowship Program.
"One important thing to note is that the data that have come out so far on seafood haven’t show any elevated contaminants in really any of the commercial seafood from the Gulf," says Solomon. However, she explains there’s a critical need for ongoing testing in the coming months or years to assure that the seafood is not only safe now, but stays safe. "It would be a mistake to do one round of tests, declare the seafood safe, and walk away," Solomon adds.
Wilson explains that although the state and federal agencies want to continue with some monitoring as the response phase ends and the recovery and restoration phase begins, money may be an issue. "The question is where the funds come from." Wilson says.
In addition to the need for ongoing testing, Solomon believes that:
"There hasn’t been enough sampling of some of the most potentially risky seafood, and that specifically includes shrimp. We can’t be sure that the sampling is adequate enough to detect a problem if there is a problem out there."
Certain types of seafood are riskier than others. Species at risk include bottom-dwelling species, burrowing crustaceans such as shrimp, and filter-feeding shellfish. Finfish are usually at lower risk of becoming tainted because they are usually not exposed to oil or exposed only briefly and because they rapidly eliminate any oil that winds up in the body.
But according to the NOAA Publication Managing Seafood Safety After an Oil Spill, exceptions may occur if a large amount of fresh, light oil is mixed into the water column or if the spill occurs in deep water, conditions which were both met by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The oil that flowed from the wellhead was a sweet Louisiana crude, a light oil that is readily dispersed and was aided by dispersants, and the spill occurred at 5,000 feet deep. The circumstances surrounding the Deepwater oil spill created the perfect storm to increase the risk of contamination.
Even if exposure to oil is fleeting, and the concentration of oil is low, there still are dangers.
"There is no safe level of exposure to this oil," says Susan Shaw, a marine toxicologist and director at the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, Maine.The oil contains carcinogens and mutagens that can damage DNA and cause cancer and other chronic health problems.
To assess the risk posed by seafood containing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens, most seafood risk assessments conducted after oil spills in the United States have followed an approach used by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990 after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The acceptable risk level of cancer from seafood consumption is determined by the quantity of seafood the average individual consumes, the body weight of the average consumer, the average human lifespan, the length of exposure, and the concentration of the PAH benzopyrene. Using this approach, the lifetime cancer risk should be no greater than 1 in 1,000,000.
However, the FDA is now using a less rigorous standard than it did in 1990 – one that tends to underestimate how much seafood Gulf residents actually eat.
"For the Exxon Valdez, there was more awareness of high levels of seafood consumption in local populations," says Solomon. "They used local fish consumption rates to estimate what levels of contaminants were safe or would be excessive. In contrast, with the Gulf oil spill, FDA used national seafood consumption rates that don’t reflect what people on the Gulf Coast are eating."
"The assumption that they’re using […] is not as protective of human health as the one that they used for the Exxon Valdez," says Solomon.
The current FDA risk assessment protocol is based on a 176-pound man eating four shrimp a week. That doesn’t account for women or children, whose body weights are lower, let alone local seafood consumption along the Gulf Coast.
"Nobody in the Gulf really eats four shrimp a week, so it’s unrealistic the way they are assessing risk of consumption," says Shaw.
For those who live on the Gulf Coast, seafood is a way of life, and sometimes a daily part of their diet. Louisiana fisherman George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fisherman’s Association, laughed heartily at the idea of eating only four shrimp a week. Solomon reports that many people she talked to on the Gulf Coast told her,
"Four shrimp?! That’s not even one po’ boy!"
Barisich, like many other fishermen, has concerns about going back out into the Gulf. "Some of us have areas that were not much impacted and the product looks good, and some us are still fishing areas that still have oil spills," he says.
"They want us to say everything’s okay. Well I don’t know about everything being okay."
According to Barisich, only 18 percent of the fleet is out fishing. The quantity of seafood out there is so small, he says, that if all the fishermen were out, they wouldn’t be bringing much in or making any money.
"As consumer confidence grows, then the price may come up. But we took a lick. We took a bad beating in the prices," he laments.
But consumer confidence in Gulf seafood is low, very low. In a recent study by the University of Minnesota, 44 percent of respondents said they would only eat seafood if they knew it didn’t come from the Gulf of Mexico.
"Much more data is needed to restore public confidence," says Shaw. "There’s an urgency to reopen the fishing areas but I think it’s likely that we’re going to find oil in the food chain."
The public is not only worried about seafood contamination from oil, but also from the dispersant Corexit.
"What we do see, or expect to see, is that consumers are very wary of buying fish from the Gulf, in part because of the issue of the dispersant," says Jennifer Jacquet, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia. "We’re seeing consumers saying ‘We don’t want Corexit fish.’"
With the public and independent scientists crying out for testing of dispersants in seafood, in late October NOAA and FDA began testing seafood for the presence of dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, better known as DOSS. When asked why DOSS was chosen for the dispersant tests out of hundreds of chemicals in Corexit, NOAA’s Wilson says,
"This was the best indicator…it was obvious to all the agencies that this was the ingredient that should be looked at."
Shaw disagrees with the validity of the DOSS tests.
"The DOSS testing is rather unimportant because it does not address the toxicity of the oil-dispersant mixture," says Shaw. "It only measures one of hundreds of compounds in Corexit, as a tracer, but the toxicological significance is minor. In reality, the DOSS testing does not ‘strengthen public confidence’ in the safety of seafood, as claimed."
In July, Shaw authored a consensus statement opposing the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the initial signatories of the consensus statement include high-profile marine scientists such as Sylvia Earle, Ocean Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society; Carl Safina, president of Blue Ocean Institute; David Guggenheim, president of 1planet1ocean; and Wallace J. Nichols, research associate at the California Academy of Scientists. One of the recommendations called for the full disclosure of all the chemical ingredients in the two Corexit formulations used by BP and full data on the toxicity of these chemicals when combined with oil.
"We still do not have disclosure on hundreds of chemical ingredients present in Corexit products because these are protected under US law as trade secrets," explains Shaw. "This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to predict with certainty the extent of toxicity of this dispersant or how the dispersant ingredients interact with oil in the water column."
The Issue of Dispersants
In early October, a staff working paper from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling became publicly available. The paper, "The Use of Surface and Subsurface Dispersants During the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill", points out that the use of dispersants during the aftermath of the Macondo deepwater well explosion was controversial for three reasons.
First, the total amount of dispersants used was unprecedented: nearly two million gallons. Second, 771,000 of those gallons were applied directly at the wellhead, with little to no prior testing on the effectiveness and potential adverse environmental consequences of using dispersants at that depth, let alone at those volumes. Third, the existing federal regulatory system pre-authorized dispersant use in the Gulf of Mexico without any limits or guidelines as to amount or duration.
"We allowed BP to disperse the oil so now it’s more persistent and toxic. Deepwater Horizon oil is in the food chain, and will be there for decades," says Shaw. "The motivation was economics, not health or the environment."BP is economically liable for every barrel spilled; dispersing the oil so that it cannot be collected by skimmers and accounted for, could result in the amount spilled to be underestimated, and smaller payouts by BP.
After the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a round of dispersant tests back in July, it announced that Corexit 9500 "is generally no more or less toxic than mixtures with the other available alternatives" and "the dispersant-oil mixtures are generally no more toxic to the aquatic test species than oil alone." The tests failed to test Corexit 9527, the more toxic of the two. Additionally, the tests were conducted in a laboratory setting on only two aquatic species— mysid shrimp and small estuarine fish – although more than 15,000 marine species inhabit the Gulf, and only measured the concentrations that cause 50 percent of the test organisms to die within 48 or 96 hours of exposure.
Most important, perhaps, EPA tests failed to measure sub-lethal effects of oil dispersants, such as the potential impact on the growth or reproduction of various seafood species.
The EPA claims that dispersant-oil mixtures are generally no more toxic than oil alone. But in a review of literature related to oil spill dispersants from 1997 to 2008, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory council found that, in the recent toxicity studies, about 75 percent of researchers found that chemically-dispersed oil was more toxic than physically dispersed oil.
The main concern is not so much the dispersants themselves, but rather how the dispersants change the oil. Dispersants function like detergents to break up the oil into small droplets that mix easily into the water column, where they may be more easily picked up by the bodies of fish and shellfish. "The dispersed oil ends up small enough that it can get in through the gills or be more easily eaten by fish or shrimp, and that could mean that the oil could accumulate more in seafood," says Solomon.
According to Shaw, there is already evidence that crabs and crab larvae have oil in their bodies, and recent studies by two separate laboratories show that Gulf shrimp contain oil and hydrocarbons.
Scientists aren’t the only ones concerned.
"You’re scared to death to put a product on the market that may or may not be tainted, even though the overwhelming testing on the tissue…is conclusive that there’s no level of toxicity that can hurt anybody," says third-generation shrimper Barisich, in his typical, southern Louisiana accent. "But there’s also the argument that the bioaccumulation over time, we’re gonna get screwed."
Over time these toxins have the potential to accumulate within organisms, and then be passed further up the food chain. One species of concern is the lowly menhaden. Aaron Adams, manager of the Fisheries Habitat Ecology Program at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida explains,
"With menhaden, they can actually accumulate toxins that are in the plankton after the oil spill, and then fish that eat them could magnify concentrations of those and that can actually be passed up the food chain."
These effects won’t be seen right away, as levels of toxins build gradually up over time.
"We have decades of toxicity in the Gulf water column that will not be seen," says Shaw. "It will take decades to understand the full extent of impacts of this oil on niches in the food web."
Scientists are not only concerned about the accumulation of toxins in organisms, but also the effects that the dispersed oil may have in the long-run on the growth, reproduction, fertilization success and embryo development of marine life in the Gulf.
"It’s so easy to take pictures of oiled birds, but the real impacts and the real work are under the surface," says Adams. He compares the unseen oil in the Gulf to cancer in a human, saying, "You don’t see it. The cancer isn’t evident until it’s way too late to do anything about it, but it’s still probably going to kill the person anyway or at least cause issues. You don’t have to see it for it to have an effect."
The Fate of Fisheries
Some species may be hit harder than others, such as the Atlantic bluefin tuna, which spawn at the exact same time and location that the oil spill occurred. Already considered critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to an 80 percent decline in the past 30 years, new satellite data from the European Space Agency shows that one-fifth of juvenile Atlantic bluefin tuna were killed as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Other species may be hit hard too, as many of the reef-associated species in the Gulf spawn around that time of year as well.
It would not be the first time that a large-scale event had ecological repercussions; the impacts of which will not be seen for some time. In 2005, there was a very extensive red tide that lasted for many months along the west coast of Florida. When a fisheries stock assessment was completed last year, the models didn’t quite fit until they were modified to include factors related to a large population die-off due to the red tide. "It would appear that the 2005-year class of many of the reef-associated species was in fact impacted by this red tide," concludes Stephen Bortone, executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, which makes fisheries recommendations to the National Marine Fisheries Service .
"Big events like [the red tide or oil spill] can have impacts on whole year classes of species in significant portions of the Gulf," says Bortone.These impacts wouldn’t be seen until many years later, when the species reaches sexual maturity and joins the fishery part of a population. Adams explains that continued monitoring is going to be important, especially for the long-lived species, the effects of the spill will be reflect in trends.
"One of the biggest challenges that we face with this event is that we really are in a data-poor situation when it comes to marine resources in the Gulf of Mexico," says Adams. "Rather than have the resource managers caught with their pants down again, it would be quite a reasonable investment to do the monitoring now that they weren’t doing before, so they can actually be able to make those predictions and have much better answers."
Further research is needed to determine the impacts that the oil spill will have on fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Bortone reports that the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is increasing its assessments directly related to oil spill associated features. In addition, the organization wrote a fairly extensive letter of advisement to the National Marine Fisheries Service calling for additional research in areas that they anticipate were impacted. Bortone said,
"There was new impetus to reinforce the increase of much more environmental data and fisheries data relative to the spill."
The other component to all this new data is that scientists and managers need a way to share this information. In mid-November, Mote Marine Laboratory co-sponsored a symposium with the National Wildlife Federation and the University of South Florida College of Marine Science. One of the aims of the workshop was to develop a regional research and management body that would serve as a central point for gathering all the data for the Gulf of Mexico. This new body would not only include state and federal management agencies, but research biologists at academic institutions and non-governmental organizations as well, and all the partners would be included in the process.
"I think that if the Gulf is ever going to have any kind of comprehensive resource management plan, it’s going to need some kind of entity like that," says Adams. "To some extent, it’s kind of fortunate that the spill occurred, if it’s used as a wake-up call to fix a system that’s obviously very broken."
"We should definitely take a look at using a variety of management techniques," says Joshua Drew, a National Science Foundation post-doctoral research fellow working at the Biodiversity Synthesis Center in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois, who advocates that rather than just listing fishing quotas, fisheries managers should take a more holistic approach and look at the entire ecosystem instead of just a single species. "If we muck this up, this really special aspect of American culture— the sort of southeastern fisherman, I can see that disappearing just because we’ve trashed the resource."
A Slice of Americana
Scientists are only beginning to understand the effects that the oil spill will have on seafood and fisheries, but the issue hits closest to home for the numerous Gulf fishermen whose lives and livelihoods depend on those outcomes. The proper handling of the Gulf’s marine resources will allow them to continue cultural traditions that have existed for generations.
"I think fishing, more than a lot of other industries, has this romance about it, and has this very American feel to it," says Drew. "It’s kind of like baseball— it’s just kind of one of those things that’s characteristic of being an American, and people are very, very willing to see that there is a lot of pride in being a fisherman."
Barisich, a pillar in the fishing community, has that sense of pride.
"You’re in this situation — you can’t walk away from it," says Barisich. "I can’t leave people. I got all these fishermen depending on me ‘cause the boys around here started an association about 20 years ago, standing up for people, standing up for myself, and now we’re the ones who need support."
NOAA reports that both actual and potential contamination of seafood can substantially affect commercial and recreational fishing, and that loss of confidence in seafood safety and quality can impact seafood markets long after any actual risk to seafood from the spill has subsided, resulting in serious economic consequences. If seafood safety testing isn’t handled properly, it will be a long, hard journey to earn back the trust of the American public and restore confidence in seafood— and that’s a hit that Gulf fishermen can’t take.
"It’s like after Katrina. They don’t know it’s killing you from the inside," says Barisich. He recounts an interview he did with BBC, where when asked where he sees himself in ten years, he said he’d probably be dead. "Five years ago I lost everything in Katrina. I had a full head of black hair, a six pack, and I had some forty-five guns in my arms, ok? Five years, I said I got a one pack- that’s how big my belly is- I’ve lost half my hair, and it’s all gray and I got little twenty-twos now for guns now in my arms. That’s what five years has done. You figure ten years will kill me."
Did Spill Chemical Worsen Matters? GULF: Research Indicates Ecosystem May Have Been Better Off without CorexitHerald-Tribune
May 31, 2011
BP succeeded in sinking the oil from its blown well out of sight -- and keeping much of it away from beaches and marshes last year -- by dousing the crude with nearly 2 million gallons of toxic chemicals. But the impact on the ecosystem as a whole may have been more damaging than the oil alone.
The combination of oil and Corexit, the chemical BP used to dissolve the slick, is more toxic to tiny plants and animals than the oil in most cases, according to preliminary research by several Florida scientists. And the chemicals may not have broken down the oil as well as expected.
Scientists reported some of their early findings last week at a Florida Institute of Oceanography conference at the University of Central Florida. The researchers were funded a year ago through a $10 million BP grant.
The initial findings require more research for scientists to reach definitive conclusions. But scientists said they were struck by the studies so far.
They added BP oil to a jar of sea water and saw all the oil float to the top. After adding a little Corexit to the mix, the entire bottle of water turned the color of dark coffee.
In theory, the chemically dissolved oil should be a feast for bacteria that would break down some of the most harmful products in the oil.
But the Corexit may not have done its job properly, said Wade Jeffrey, a biologist with the University of West Florida's Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation.
"So far -- and this is very preliminary -- we're not seeing a big difference," Jeffrey said. "The way we're doing the experiment, the Corexit does not seem to facilitate the degradation of the oil."
Additionally, the Corexit and oil mixture tends to be more toxic to phytoplankton -- tiny microscopic plants -- than the oil itself.
Jeffrey subjected water samples, mostly from the Pensacola region, to heavily diluted concentrations of oily water and oily water mixed with Corexit. Most of the time the mix of Corexit and oil was more toxic to the phytoplankton in the sample than oil alone. Additionally, the Corexit did not prompt the oil-eating bacteria in the samples to gobble the oil any faster.
Jeffrey worked with a concentration of 1 part per million of oil and a tenth of that concentration for Corexit. Higher doses of oil killed the phytoplankton immediately, leaving Jeffrey with nothing to observe.
To see whether Corexit is more effective at breaking down larger concentrations of oil, Jeffrey plans more experimentation without the phytoplankton.
A similar study showed toxic effects of oil and Corexit on larger species, including conch, oysters and shrimp.
Susan Laramore, assistant research professor at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, used somewhat degraded oil from tar mats collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute to conduct her research.
Not all of the results are in, but early evidence shows the oil and dispersant mixture to be more toxic than the oil alone.
"These results are backwards of what the oil companies are reporting," Laramore said.
The findings raise questions about whether the federal government should have let BP use so much dispersant on the oil. The Environmental Protection Agency tried to force BP to use a less damaging product, but no other product was available in sufficient quantities.
The dispersant effectively kept a great deal of the oil at sea, where it was not easily visible to the public. Although as much as half the oil that spewed from the well -- 186 million to 227 million gallons -- is unaccounted for, plenty of it still washed ashore, from the border of Texas to the Florida Panhandle.
Reports and videos taken last week by scientist Dana Wetzel of Sarasota's Mote Marine Laboratory also show that the marshes of Louisiana's Barataria Bay remain heavily choked in oil.Evidence also is growing that the Corexit did not degrade as promised. A study in January by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts indicated that Corexit applied at the well-head -- some 800,000 gallons -- did nothing to break up the oil and simply drifted into the ecosystem.
FIO researcher Wilson Mendoza similarly has found potential evidence that Corexit remains in the environment much longer than expected. Wilson, a doctoral candidate at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, is developing a fingerprint for the BP oil and the Corexit.
In testing 75 different water samples taken from around the Gulf of Mexico, some contained signatures identified for both the oil and the Corexit a year after the spill.
Mendoza is running another test, using equipment that can analyze substances at a molecular level to verify the findings.
"If some of the other teams found out that Corexit is actually toxic and if it's still there after a year, then I suppose it could cause environmental problems to a lot of organisms in the Gulf of Mexico," Mendoza said.
October 26, 2011
An eerie algae bloom that has painted chunks of Texas' coast a reddish brown – and even a yellow-green in some places – has forced state health officials to ban oyster harvesting before the season officially begins.
The Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday that it was banning commercial and recreational harvesting of oysters, clams and mussels because the "red tide" algae bloom contains a toxin that can lead to shellfish poisoning in humans.
The algae boom, which is typically present along Texas' coast beginning in September, is worse this year because of a historic drought and unprecedented heat. Already the algae, which thrive in warm, salty water, killed 3 million fish. It is the largest algae bloom in more than a decade along the Texas Gulf Coast, said Meredith Byrd, a Texas Parks and Wildlife marine biologist.
"We need a combination of rain and cold temperatures to start killing off the red tide," Byrd said.
Texas' oysters have already been hard hit by the drought, with 65 percent fewer market-size oysters than were seen at this time last year, according to the parks and wildlife department. The lack of rain has depleted the amount of freshwater in the estuaries, the conditions oysters most like to spawn in.
The low numbers will harm Texas' $217 million-a-year commercial oyster industry. Texas and Louisiana make up 70 percent of the oysters found in the Gulf and the eastern seaboard. Louisiana has had almost no oyster harvesting this year because too much freshwater from Mississippi River flooding killed its harvest.
Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the health department, the agency charged with protecting the integrity of Texas seafood, said the state is required by federal law to close down harvesting when red tide reaches at least 5 cells per milliliter.
"Red tide isn't even visible at that point," Mann said, explaining that a visible bloom is around 1,000 cells per milliliter. "So the threshold is very, very low."
Texas' oyster harvesting season normally runs from Nov. 1 through April 30. It is not yet known how long the ban will be in place.
Even when the waters clear, it may take quite a while for the oysters to detoxify, so the length of the closures will depend on how concentrated the red tide bloom was and for how long, Mann said.
The health agency will monitor the situation by taking water samples and testing the tissue of oysters.
A cold front expected to drop night temperatures along the Texas coast into the 50s is forecast for Thursday, but Byrd said it won't be enough to "hammer away at the red tide" because the daytime highs will still be in the 70s and there's no rain in the forecast.
To have an impact, water temperature needs to get below 60 degrees, Byrd said, and rain is necessary to help dilute the water so it's not salty.
"I'm hopeful that over the next few weeks it (the algae) will start dying off, but I just can't make that prediction," Byrd said.
In the worst case in recent years, the hardest-hit areas of the bloom have seen it gone by Thanksgiving – but everything depends on the weather. The last red tide for Texas, from October 2009 through mid-February 2010, killed about 5.5 million fish, Byrd said.
"Unfortunately, it has really large impacts on the tourism industry," Byrd said. "As you can imagine, people can be reluctant to go to beaches if they're being hit by red tide."
Families with children, particularly those with asthma or other lung disorders, should steer clear of the waters since the red tide toxin can become airborne and pose potential health problems. For healthy people it's more of a nuisance that can cause coughing and sinus irritation – symptoms that go away as soon as an individual leaves the beach, authorities said.
November 9, 2011
Christine Mann, Assistant Press Officer of Texas Department of State Health Services has emailed Deborah Dupré saying she wanted to ensure awareness that the Department of State Health Services has issued a warning to the harvesting and consumption of oysters, mussels, clams and whelks from Texas waters but not a warning for Texans to stay away from the toxic area.
"Red tide toxin (in the ocean) also can become aerosolized and cause coughing and irritation of the throat and eyes."
"People with respiratory conditions such as asthma may experience more pronounced symptoms which usually subside when affected people leave the red tide areas.
"Local municipalities may have their own warnings pertaining to whether or not the beaches are open or closed."
"Health officials have closed all oyster harvesting from Texas coastal waters due to the algae bloom known as red tide."
November 14, 2011
Neurotoxic shellfish poisoning (NSP) threatening human health along Texas Gulf Coast prompted Texas Department of Health to warn people to stay away from the Gulf area from Brownsville through Galveston where 4.2 million have been killed in the ongoing great Gulf die-off and to not eat the shellfish from there, a situation slightly relieved after a cold front Thursday blew toxins south according to Texas Park and Wildlife.
"Staff of Padre Island National Seashore continue to find coyotes that are sick or dead, possibly from ingesting fish killed by the brevetoxin. Aerosols are light to nonexistent along South Padre Island despite moderate cell concentrations," Texas Park and Wildlife reported Thursday.
Texas Department of State Health Services has banned commercial and recreational harvesting of shellfish in the area of the 4.2 million fish die-off and warned the public to stay away from the Gulf area to avoid neurotoxin shellfish poisoning. Since then, updates are hard to find in other news sources.
Victims of neurotoxic shellfish poisoning "have been frequently hospitalised with symptoms including nausea, vomiting and slurred speech."
This form of food poisoning can lead to dizziness and tingling sensations throughout a victim’s body and in rare severe cases, paralysis and difficulty breathing that can result in a fatality.
PubMed Central says that neurotoxic shellfish also results in paresthesias (numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling) of the mouth, lips and tongue plus distal paresthesias.
The Texas health warning says,
"Oysters can be toxic without any indication of red tide such as discolored waters, respiratory irritation or dead fish. People are also advised not to harvest and eat whelks from Texas waters as these species also accumulate toxin from the red tide organism."
The latest mass fish die-off has been attributed to extreme heat causing extreme red tide in the area plagued not only by Big Oil's crude and Corexit, but also by Big Ag's oxygen-depleting algae blooms, fed by fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farm fields that produce aquatic dead zones -- water that cannot support sea life.
Oil is still gushing into the region, in some areas, as deadly as immediately after the spill, and Corexit is still being used to secretly carpet bomb.
“I was shocked to see a large fish kill stretching for almost 7 miles along the beach,” Cameron County Commissioner Sofia Benavides said last week.“Birds were pecking at the dead fish as the tide brought them in. I expected to see lots of different types of fish but there was only one.
"The stench was strong and my throat was hurting by the time I left.”
"When making travel plans, heed the advice of the Texas Department of State Health Services : get the current facts and draw your own conclusions."
So far, BP has told federal agencies that it has applied more than 400,000 gallons of a dispersant sold under the trade name Corexit and manufactured by Nalco Co., whose current leadership includes executives from BP and Exxon. And another 805,000 gallons of Corexit are on order, the company said, with the possibility that hundreds of thousands of more gallons may be needed if the well continues spewing oil for weeks or months. But according to EPA data, Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude. Of 18 dispersants whose use EPA has approved, 12 were found to be more effective on southern Louisiana crude than Corexit, EPA data show. Two of the 12 were found to be 100 percent effective on Gulf of Mexico crude, while the two Corexit products rated 56 percent and 63 percent effective, respectively. The toxicity of the 12 was shown to be either comparable to the Corexit line or, in some cases, 10 or 20 times less, according to EPA. EPA has not taken a stance on whether one dispersant should be used over another, leaving that up to BP. - The BP, Exxon and Nalco Co. (Corexit) Connection, E&E News, May 14, 2010
May 7, 2010
Two C-130H aircraft and crews from here are spraying oil-dispersing agents as part of an effort to clean up the massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
More than 40 Citizen Airmen from Youngstown's 910th Airlift Wing are operating out of Stennis International Airport, Miss. They began operations at Stennis on May 1.
In their first 18 sorties over the water, they delivered more than 29,000 gallons of dispersant in an area of 6,000 acres.
This is the first time in the history of the Department of Defense's large area fixed-wing aerial spray program that the oil dispersing capability has been used in an actual emergency.
The objective of their efforts is to neutralize the spill with oil dispersing agents. The spill is threatening animal life and the ecosystem along the Gulf coast.
The Youngstown reservists are operating in a joint-service effort under the direction of President Obama and a tasking by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
High winds and turbulent waters initially hampered the operations, according to reservists from the 910th AW aerial spray operations team. They expect to remain involved in the effort as long as they are needed based on mission requirements.
Air Force Reserve Command's 910th aerial spray oil dispersing mission is part of a whole-of-government response to this incident that also includes the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.
For more than a decade, the 910th has participated in oil spill cleanup exercises in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. This training has sharpened the skills of the Air Force reservists to respond to these kinds of situations.
In addition to dispersing oil slicks, the aerial spray capability is designed for larvicide and insect eradication as well as providing vegetation control at bombing ranges. (Air Force Reserve Command News Service)
May 3, 2010
Aircraft and crews from the 910th Airlift Wing have arrived at a staging area in the Gulf coast region in anticipation of supporting emergency oil spill clean-up efforts.
"We are posturing to be ready to provide support to the ongoing emergency efforts if called upon," said Col Craig Peters, 910th Operations Group commander.The 910th AW specializes in aerial spray and is the Department of Defense's only large area fixed wing aerial spray unit. The aerial spray capability is designed for larvicide and insect eradication, to provide vegetation control at bombing ranges and to disperse oil slicks.
May 10, 2010
The U.S. Air Force Reserve C-130s were scheduled to make 10 flights Monday to spray a detergent-like agent to help break down the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, officials at the Tyndall Air Force Base reported.
Sorties, flown at 230 mph about 100 feet above the water, distributed 58,036 gallons of dispersant covering 11,573 acres between May 1 and Sunday, and the missions will continue daily, said Master Sgt. Jerry D. Harlan, public affairs manager for the 1st Air Force.
The aircraft, from the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Ohio now flying from Bay St. Louis, Miss., are equipped for aerial spray missions, which mostly have involved control of insects at military bases and vegetation growth on bombing ranges.
The U.S. Coast Guard requested the Gulf dispersant missions from the U.S. Northern Command at Colorado Springs, Colo., which oversees the Continental U.S. NORAD Region at Tyndall.
Air and space operations center personnel at Tyndall known primarily for coordinating U.S. air defense operations have increasingly picked up civil emergency support missions since Hurricane Katrina, which followed the 2002 creation of the U.S. Northern Command and its homeland security missions.
Tyndall planners last week recommended that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with P-3 Airborne Early Warning aircraft from Jacksonville and Corpus Christi, Texas, monitor flights coming into the increasingly busy air space near the oil rig because those aircraft are equipped with communications equipment suitable for contact with civil aircraft.
Aircraft and crews from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 910th Airlift Wing, Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, were notified April 29, 2010, that they will support the oil spill recovery effort in the Gulf of Mexico. The 910th AW specializes in aerial spray and is the Department of Defense’s only large area fixed wing aerial spray unit. In this Nov. 8, 2006, file photo, a 910th AW C-130H flies low level above a simulated oil slick six miles off the shore of Galveston, Texas, during an oil dispersant exercise. (U.S. Air Force file photo)
April 29, 2010
President Barack Obama met Thursday with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and senior administration officials, including National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones, left, in the Oval Office, regarding the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Obama administration says the cost of cleaning up a giant oil spill off the Gulf of Mexico will fall on BP PLC, the company that operated the rig.
White House spokesman Nick Shapiro says President Barack Obama has directed his administration to aggressively confront the oil spill. The military is working to determine how its array of aircraft, ships and equipment might be able to assist the cleanup operation.
The spill off the coast of Louisiana threatens to turn into an environmental disaster for the coastline.
Shapiro says Obama was updated on the spill early Thursday. Although the Coast Guard and other federal agencies are supporting the cleanup, Shapiro says BP will be required to pay for it.
May 27, 2010
Federal officials say cleaning up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has already cost the government $87 million, making it the third-most expensive cleanup effort in the nation's history.
Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry has distributed that money to state and federal agencies directly involved in the cleanup. Those include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which projects the oil slick's trajectory, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which rescues oil-soaked birds.
A senior financial analyst at the National Pollution Funds Center says an additional $38 million in emergency money has been assigned to the Deepwater Horizon spill, but it has yet to be spent.
The most expensive cleanup was the Exxon Valdez spill, which cost $121 million. The second was $89 million for cleaning up a 1994 oil spill off the coast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
BP, the Fifth Oil Giant, Will Still Earn $20.2 Billion in 2010 Despite the $40-Billion Clean Up Expense for the Gulf Oil SpillMcClatchy-Tribune News
January 5, 2011
...With a relatively weak U.S. dollar, the relative price of crude oil is higher.
Gasoline expert Fred Rozell predicts that 15 states, including Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut and Rhode Island, will see gasoline prices top $4 a gallon by Memorial Day.
"A dollar more per gallon isn't that much, probably about $750 more per year for each motorist, but there's a psychological aspect to gas prices," he said. "People are going to be up in arms about this."Those higher oil prices have fattened oil company profits. Excluding BP PLC, the four other major investor-owned oil companies posted combined profits of $59.7 billion in the first nine months of 2010, a 49 percent increase from the year before.
The U.S. is the world's largest oil consumer, but prices since spring have been on a roll primarily because of rising demand in developing countries, especially China. China's oil consumption is expected to rise 5 percent next year; that compares with less than 1 percent growth forecast for the U.S.
Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp. and Total SA are expected to earn $81 billion for the full year.
The fifth oil giant, BP, was held responsible for the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history and booked $39.9 billion in charges related to the disaster. Excluding special expenses like the Gulf of Mexico spill, analysts say the company will still earn $20.2 billion in 2010.
Thousands Of Dead Fish Wash Ashore In Florida
Reported Sightings of Red Tide
Florida Red Tide Report, Red Tide News and Red Tide Info