Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gulf Oil Update: Day 114

Drew Wheelan
ABA Coordinator
American Birding Association Blog

08/07/2010 Grand Isle, LA, massive amounts of oil contaminate the beach while a Reddish Egret forages near by

I shot this video while volunteering for the Hermit Crab Survival Project at the State Park on Grand Isle. Park biologist, Leanne Sarco, having been denied any avenue to volunteer to help with the spill has taken it upon herself to rescue thousands of Hermit Crabs from a contaminated beach that BP has left oil on for more than 80 days now. She and volunteers wash the crabs individually, and put them through three tank cleansing process before releasing them on the less contaminated Bay side of Grand Isle. This beach has no public access, or visibility so it has been left alone, while hundreds of people have been cleaning the front beach, less than 150 meters away, even when there has been no oil.


Oil Everywhere

Drew Wheelan
ABA Coordinator
American Birding Association Blog

08/10/2010 In the last four days I have seen more oil, by volume than I had previously in my entire first 11 weeks here in Louisiana. On August 6th, I flew over Terrebonne and Barataria Bays with Southwings Aviation and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeepers. What I saw was horrifying. Oil blanketed every single beach and Gulf side marsh from Raccoon Island east to the Mississippi Delta. There was evidence of clean up on 5 beaches, but from the air it looked like the efforts were all but superficial, except on Grand Isle beach which looked pretty clean. However, on the eastern tip of the island we could see mats of weathered oil that extend for hundreds of meters along the coast, and have just begun to be dealt with by BP contractors. Nearly all of the marshes that we passed had a wide rim of orange and brown dead marsh grasses lining them. Also what was evident were dark blotches of probable submerged masses of thick oil in the nearshore areas. I learned last night that when the oil mixes with the sand, they call it asphalting, and this is what's happening nearly everywhere, as the sticky nature of the Louisiana crude bonds easily with anything that it touches, like feathers for example.

Oil found on the evening of August 9th in Grand Isle State Park. This was from a 30 inch deep hole that revealed oil existing in multiple layers under the sand.

I am so glad that I don't own a TV and have to listen to the propaganda being fed by BP on nearly every channel, and the main stream media and government reports that actually back up the claims that they are cleaning this oil up. In two hours of flying over the affected beaches, although we saw evidence of clean up crews, we saw not a single person working. Not one. Everyday more migratory birds arrive on these shores, and little to nothing is being done to safeguard them from a highly toxic environment.

I flew over 60 plus miles of coastline and nearly every marsh was oiled like this.

Marshes present a particular problem, in that they don't know how to clean them, but cleaning the beaches should only be limited to man power and resources which should be limited at about 97 billion dollars, so there is absolutely no reason why these beaches shouldn't be spotless.

A large accumulation of oil on Elmer's Island which has been there for more than 11 weeks. It appears that they have just begun to clean the northwest corner of the deposit.

This oil on Elmer's Island has been there since the very first days that the oil hit, somewhere around May 20th. From the air it is very apparent that they have just begun to scrape some oil out of the Northwest corner of the deposit. This oil has been there for literally two and a half months without effort to pick it up. When it firs hit shore it was the perfect type of conglomeration to be vacuumed up in a pump truck like the type used in Caminada Pass. In fact these trucks could have and should have been deployed on day one, but it wasn't until may 28th that any type of clean up began anywhere, and then it was just a poorly organized show dressed in red, white and blue uniforms sent to perform for the President.

One thing that this flight revealed was that the oil, like seaweed and other debris tends to accumulate on points and eddies and geographic changes in the shoreline. It then becomes apparent that much of the clean up effort should be focused in these areas, instead of ambling up and down beaches scooping up tarballs, there is real, heavy, thick oil in these locations. Many hundreds of barrels of oil are represented in the above picture, which is contrasted now by the aerial photograph taken on May 22 by Richard Shephard of the exact same location. Many more images of this oil can be seen on his website

Heavy oil on Elmer's Island in the very first days of oil hitting the shores of Louisiana. It remains to be cleaned up 80 days later.

A disconcerting thing is that not only does oil tend to make landfall on these points and eddies, but it is also exactly where birds tend to roost and loaf. Almost all of the large groups of birds that I have seen lately tend to congregate in these areas. Young of the year dispersing from the colonies are congregating in large numbers in the Gulf right now, as well as many migrants. I have not seen any effort to haze or keep birds form these areas where they can continually become fouled in this oil that, although weathered, becomes emulsified and nasty with the noon day sun. There is oil throughout the Louisiana coast, and a very obvious pull out of clean up workers here in Grand Isle. What will happen to all of this oil left behind? It will continue to seep into the ecosystem and contaminate everything from crabs to shrimp to Reddish Egrets. What is happening down here is not right.


BP Oil Spill Update
by Secretary Steven Chu
Energy Blog of the US Department of Energy
August 10, 2010 at 10:48 AM

As you may know, I’ve spent much of the last three months working to help contain the BP oil spill. I recently returned from my seventh trip to Houston, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to update you on our work to seal the damaged well in the Gulf.

My job has been to oversee the federal science team – a group of top scientists from the Department of Energy’s national labs, the federal government, and academia, along with outside industry experts. We have been working seven days a week to tackle this very challenging problem. Our focus has been on collecting as much data as possible and making sure we plot the best path forward based on the facts.

Because of the gravity of the situation, the Administration asserted its authority over BP’s actions. As we evaluated the scenarios for stopping the leak, BP was not allowed to move forward on a course of action without the government’s approval.

The results of the well integrity tests (including additional monitoring of the wellhead and the surrounding area, which we had insisted upon) indicated that the well was likely intact, and we saw no evidence that oil was leaking from the wellbore into the rock formation. This meant we would be able to safely pump fluid into the well to attempt to kill it.

After the science team reached a consensus that the static kill attempt could work with minimal risk, we gave BP the go-ahead to proceed. During the static kill, the damaged well was filled with mud, stabilizing the pressure within the well and relieving a lot of the excess pressure on the damaged blowout preventer and ceiling cap. I am pleased to tell you that it was completed successfully.

This success led to a much more difficult decision: should we follow the mud with cement to further ensure that the well stays killed? This procedure had a higher risk of something going wrong. With cement, a mistake in execution could be permanent. We also had to weigh the dangers of having so many ships conducting operations within 1,500 meters of the wellbore and of the strain already being placed on the blowout preventer. Continued operations were also taking a toll on the ships’ crews; the longer they worked, the greater the danger. Still, the risk of something going wrong was very small, and the potential for dramatic progress was very high. Successfully cementing the well would be a major step toward completely killing the well. We decided to proceed with the cement.

All signs indicate that the cement is holding. This is a significant step forward for the people of the Gulf, but our work is not done. The relief well is the permanent solution, and we hope to be able to intersect the Macondo well with the relief well soon.

We also must remain focused on helping the people, businesses and communities in the Gulf Coast region who have been affected by this spill. Restoring livelihoods and the environment in the region will take much more time than plugging the well.

We don’t want any chance that oil will flow from the well again. I will continue to work closely with the science team and the BP technical engineers in the coming days to make sure that the well is completely killed.