With more than 100 miles of coastline remaining to be cleaned up following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the states most impacted by the disaster believe it’s too soon for BP to stop clean up efforts. That’s because the environmental damage to the costal areas is still ongoing. Garret Graves, Chair of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana (CPRA), has said that the response should only end “when conditions on the ground dictate such actions.” He stated recently that the cleanup is not even close to finishing right now and that is most evident. CPRA is a state agency that is leading hurricane protection and ecosystem restoration in Louisiana. Many experts believe that the cleanup process, considering that more than 200 million gallons of crude oil was released into the Gulf, will never be fully completed.
Thus far, cleanup efforts have been overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard, which reported in June that cleanup of the shorelines of Florida, Mississippi and Alabama were complete, leaving most of Louisiana still in the process of cleanup. Patrols are still actively looking for oil in that state. According to the Coast Guard, there are 90 responders currently working in Louisiana, compared with the 19,000 people who were dispatched in July 2010 to comb the beaches, marshes and barrier islands searching for tarballs, sheen and oil. Those efforts have been disappointing to many state officials because locating submerged oil is often tedious, labor-intensive work that does not guarantee successful results. According to the Coast Guard, of the 2.9 million pounds of sand, shells and water dredged to date, the vast majority – 85 percent – did not contain oil. Hopefully, that information is accurate.
The Coast Guard released a report August 13th that says just 95 miles of coastline are left to clean. But the report did not project exactly how long it will take to complete the process. Chief Petty Officer Pat Howell, the Louisiana branch director for the Coast Guard’s Gulf Coast Incident Management Team, had this to say:
We don’t have an end date. Once there is an agreement made that clean is clean, that’s when we will depart. I’m sure there will be a lot of data to back that up and to say we’re ready for the next phase of response.
Chief Howell says that next phase “depends on the public to be our eyes.” Instead of an active and ongoing search, the Coast Guard will dispatch crews only if they receive a report on their hotline of an oil sighting and then only if a forensics investigation proves the oil can be traced back to the Deepwater Horizon. If that proves to be the case, he says BP, the oil giant largely responsible for the disaster, will pay the bill.
Louisiana official’s believe their state’s delicate coastline of marshes and reefs received the most oil. State officials have been fighting to prevent a winding down of the cleanup effort and they believe that a more comprehensive approach is needed to mitigate oil that remains deeply embedded into the coastal environment. David Muth, director of the Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), observed:
Louisiana has made a very strong case why they don’t want their state taken out of response. They probably have a fear that it’s going to get harder and harder to get anyone to come in and respond because it becomes harder and harder to prove the chemical signature of the material over time.
Environmental groups are also greatly concerned because they say the oil-soaked environment continues to damage wildlife reproduction cycles, which will receive less attention once the recovery effort ends. A NWF report, released in April, uses data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to show that dolphin deaths are above average since the spill and that infant dolphins were found dead at six times the average in January and February. The report says that Killifish, sea turtles and coral species have also been badly damaged. Frankly, I don’t believe that BP can be trusted. For that reason, I give little, if any, credence to their public statements. Just because BP discontinues their active response doesn’t mean that the coast has been cleaned up. All of the costal states, as well as the federal government, must keep pressu
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