The explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico erupted one year ago today. on the Transocean/Halliburton/British Petroleum were killed, though BP has still managed to avoid investigation into their deaths. The terrible tragedy of 20 April 2010 became the ongoing ecological crisis of the largest oil spill in US waters ever. And the cat-and-mouse game BP and the US government played over the amount of old spewing from the damaged wellhead became the political .
One year later, residents of the Gulf are still trying to recover the economic blow of a lost season of tourism and damage to beaches or wetlands. They also continue to struggle to get thefrom BP. What is the state of the Gulf itself one year on?
We would recommend this series done by the New York Times in December of last year that gives graphical representations of what happened and testimony of survivors about the day of the explosion. It is also a touching reminder of the eleven crewmen who died.
Tourism is starting to trickle back into the area, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that fresh seafood shows no traceable contamination at this point. Indeed, many scientists who feared the worst in the summer of 2010 are now admitting we dodged a bullet – or at least a fatal shot was averted. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, reports on ScienceDaily.com:
The oil did not cause the catastrophic mortality of birds that we might have seen had the winds and tides carried oil into all the major islands where colonies of birds raise their young. Thousands of birds were heavily oiled, and we know now that probably tens of thousands more were affected by smaller amounts of oil that couldn’t be seen from a distance but were visible in the high-definition video footage acquired by the Lab’s video crews.
At the breeding colonies where our crews worked, nearly all the young birds and a huge proportion of the adults had at least some oil on them. Even these small amounts of oil can be harmful. These health effects couldn’t be measured immediately, so we won’t ever really know the total mortality from this spill.
Looking ahead, we have to ask how many more additional problems that birds and our natural ecosystems can endure. We have to commit ourselves to preventing any recurrence of such a calamity, because next time we might not get this lucky.
The political debates about drilling continue, though rigs are mostly back in operation in the Gulf – none of which have had to alter significantly their working procedures or technologies. The environmental impact is still being measured. Though the immediate impact was not as terrible as predicted a year ago, many experts agree that we might need a couple of generations of wildlife to understand the effects.
As a final tribute to the eleven dead men and the countless animals lost in the four-month, 5 million barrel, spill, this synoptic study by Energy Now offers a balanced view of what happened, and what has – and has not- been done since: