As you might have heard, there was an oil spill in Galveston bay that was caused by a ship and barge colliding, causing the barge to leak. Approximately 170,000 gallons of “tar-like” particularly heavy (density of 991 kg/m3), sticky oil, RMG 380, has leaked into the bay due to the collision.
While this may not seem like much compared to the 205.9 million gallons of light (density of ~850 kg/m3) Macondo crude oil spewed by the Deepwater Horizon blowout of 2010, A) any oil spilled is too much oil and B) it comes at peak shorebird migration time. According to the Audubon Society, tens of thousands of wintering birds are still in the area and birds are already being impacted.
The Gulf Coast region which includes the coast of Galveston, is hugely important for migratory birds.
The piping plover is one of my favorite shorebirds that I have had the pleasure of watching on a beach in Biddeford Pool, ME during summer. All populations of piping plover migrate to the south during winter. Unfortunately, these cute little birds are a threatened species on their Atlantic coast nesting grounds and an endangered species on their wintering grounds. Doesn’t sound good, does it?
And just like Deepwater Horizon, it’s not just wildlife being harmed, it’s the economy. You know, that thing we’re desperately trying to recover? But whatever, right? Who cares if a ship-chartering business loses thousands of dollars a day, that cruise ships are stuck at port for who knows how long, and that we are spending millions of tax-payer dollars cleaning up this stuff?
I went to school in Galveston and had to evacuate for hurricane Ike. When I last visited Galveston, it looked amazing! Way different than when I was first allowed back on the island after the hurricane. It took Galveston years to get the popular destination back up and running….now they have to deal with this. I’m sorry, Galveston!
And yet, WE HAVEN’T LEARNED OUR LESSON WHAT THE HELL.
Now that BP can once again participate in federal lease sales, just this past Wednesday (March 19, 2014) they won 24 out of 31 bids for offshore drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico. While the EPA set some some provisions to the suspension-lift, LOOK. LOOK AT THIS. A BP refinery in Indiana has now released, JUST YESTERDAY (March 25, 2014), an unknown amount into Lake Michigan due to an oil refining malfunction which allowed the oil to get into the cooling water system!
A recap: The Deepwater Horizon spill
BP lied about the amount of oil spewing from the well, stating 5,000 barrels and day when they knew it was likely a whopping 95,000 barrels a day more.
They also tried to hide the extent of the spill from photographs and our TV screens by using a dispersant called Corexit. They lied about the safety of Corexit and continued to spray approximately 1.8 million gallons of the stuff into the Gulf. A 2012 study found that Corexit and oil combined may increase toxicity 52-fold. FIFTY TWO TIMES AS TOXIC AS THE OIL ITSELF.
6 months and after the spill:
- 3,000 birds (40% of the 7,000 collected) showed signs of oiling – ~10% of those later died (USFWS bird impact data reports)
- 100 marine mammals were collected and a higher incidence of strandings have been recorded since then
- 450 out of 1,066 sea turtles showed signs of oiling and strandings per year has raised to 500 from an average of 100 since the spill
- Recently it was found that the oil spill has negative impacts on developing hearts of large pelagic fish such as tuna
Check out a map and various layers that show how widespread the BP spill was here.
About this post
Despite my disdain for the drilling industry, the purpose of this post is not to say “stop all drilling,” but instead to say “we really, really, really, REALLY need to regulate the industry better in all regards.”
I use BP as my primary example of this because, well, they are SO MESSED UP. Why do we let them and companies like them continue? It’s crystal clear they care only about saving their image with absolutely no thought given to how they have impacted….everything.
With regard to the Galveston spill, the collision between the ship and the barge is being investigated.
The fact of the matter is, I know someone who got fired from a fast food joint for not squirting ketchup on burgers fast enough, yet a company that skimps on safety and lets oil spew for 87 whole days is allowed to bid on drilling projects? No. It shouldn’t work like that.