Bowermaster’s Adventures: Five reasons we should not believe the BP mess is “cleaned up”

Three months ago, on August 2, the White House – citing an in-house National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study – announced that 74 percent of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico by the BP mess was gone, had either been cleaned up or simply disappeared.

Few seriously believed the report at the time, including many NOAA scientists; even fewer think it’s true today.

It was six months ago that the Deepwater Horizon sank below the surface and impacts of the disaster are still being felt daily along the Gulf Coast and across the U.S.

While 90 percent of the federal fisheries are open, processors are finding little demand for what much of the nation’s populace still believes are damaged goods. While much of the oil appears to be gone from the surface, there is more and more evidence that there is a significant amount on or near the ocean floor. Oil remains buried on sand beaches and marshes and bays are receiving new oil daily, still impacting migratory birds and marine life. That $20 billion compensation fund BP set up has so far only doled out $1.5 billion; many are still awaiting a first check, many more still struggling with an unknown future. The moratorium against deepwater drilling has been lifted, with some new rules and guidelines in place, but there are no guarantees against a repeat performance by one of the 4,000 wells still drilling in the Gulf.

Five reasons we should not believe the BP mess is “cleaned up”:

1. Photos taken this month in Barataria Bay, 40 miles south of New Orleans, which is fed directly from Gulf waters, show the edges of the marshes are as heavily soaked with oil today as they were mid-July. According to Plaquemine Parish coastal restoration manager P.J. Hahn, “we are averaging about 30,000 gallons of recovered oil a week from the marsh, mainly around Bay Jimmy. We’re also picking up about 8,700 bags of tar balls a week along the beaches, mainly in Pass Chaland and barrier islands. It is definitely not over!!”

%Gallery-107702%2. In Pensacola, environmentalist Gregg Hall has been collecting video of the impacts of the BP mess on the white sand beaches of Florida since the first week of June. With 600 hours of video and photo documentation, he asserts that BP … and the government … are not allowing a true clean-up of the beaches there, by not allowing its clean-up workers to dig more than six inches into the sand “or they will be fired, and now they’ve taken their shovels away as well.” By not putting their heads – or their hands — in the sand, by allowing the oil that has washed ashore to stay buried, at least until the next storm uncovers it, the clean-up of Florida’s beaches is something of a mirage. A collection of Hall’s videos can be seen on YouTube.

3. Similar concerns are being raised in Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal initiated late-in-the-game rebuilding of offshore berms – at the cost of nearly $400 million – ostensibly to help keep the oil from reaching shore. The construction didn’t work – too little, way too late – but still continues even though, as the Times reports today, many in government and scientists contend it is “pointless.” Blocking the oil that remains is with dirt and san berms is futile … unless you happen to be one of the contractors hired to do the digging and building, many of who turn out to be big campaign supporters of Jindal. Opponents say the digging and building is actually harming wildlife and squandering money that should be used for real and necessary coastal restoration. My friend Ivor van Heerden has been scouring the coast since the spill began and tells me, “They’ve now buried oil by as much as seven feet and will not allow us to clean it up. With this winter’s erosion this buried oil will be released” and ultimately wash onto shore.

4. There is ongoing concern about what happened to all that oily waste collected along the beaches. BP contracted with Waste Management to properly dispose of the thousands of tons of plastic bags filled with oil-soaked sponges, etc, which were supposed to be treated as hazardous waste and put only in landfills prepared to receive such. Mike Stiers writes to suggest that the waste has continually been dumped in non-hazardous waste landfills and questions whether the company that is supposed to authorize the disposal – TestAmerica – is the best outfit to be overseeing that side of the clean-up since it is a BP partner.

5. If you’d like to hear what it’s like living on the Gulf these days from those who actually live there, the Natural Resources Defense Council has hooked up with StoryCorps to “record, share and preserve the stories and experiences of those living through the BP oil disaster.” Listening to these very recent stories from fishermen, tourist guides, filmmakers and average folks on what it is like today to be living tomorrow’s headlines is the most eye-opening reporting of all.