The Human Side of the Spill

BP announced yesterday that it has successfully placed a narrow pipe into one of the leaking risers, which is allowing some portion of the spurting oil to be collected, perhaps the first good news since the explosion occurred, nearly a month ago. At the same time, CBS 60 Minutes aired the story of whistleblower Mike Williams, the last man to safely leave the Deepwater Horizon as it was engulfed in flames, who described a series of safety incidents over a period of four weeks leading up to the disaster that revealed a pattern of willful neglect by the company in their haste to get to the oil.

Also, over the weekend came reports that the chemical dispersants injected deep underwater had kept large quantities of oil from coming up to the surface, resulting in enormous underwater plumes which could explain the substantial discrepancy in the estimated quantities of leaking oil between those original reports of 5,000 barrels per day, based on satellite images taken at the surface and more recent estimates based on sub-ocean video which claim that between 56,000 and 84,000 barrels per day were leaking.

It might be months or even years before the impact of these chemicals becomes clear. The EPA authorized these deep water injections despite concerns over the adequacy of testing in situ, under the conditions under which these injections are being made.

Global Green produced a video in which several Gulf Coast fishermen are interviewed about the prospects for the future, given the level of contamination that seems to have impacted the Gulf to this point. “I don’t have type A blood, I have type saltwater,” says fisherman Robert Campo who runs a marina with his father in Shell Beach, LA. “My family’s been at this for four generations. This is going to make hurricane Katrina look like a drop in the bucket.”

The continuity of the fishing business and the return of tourists, to New Orleans and other destinations along the Gulf Coast, have been pivotal in the area’s recovery after the massive 2005 storm which claimed more than 1800 lives. Five years later, the area is still rebuilding. This contamination of the Gulf will doubtless prove a major setback to the area. “What are you going to do, provide job training?” asks Campo. “We got guys working for theyself all their life, they hardly can work with they sons they’re so grumpy, how can you put them to work with somebody else?”

A Gulf Aid concert took place, despite some heavy rain and some flash flooding. It featured an impressive lineup of local music celebrities including: Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Marcia Ball, Kermit Ruffins, Tab Benoit and several members of the Neville Brothers Band among others. All the musicians played for free, with all ticket proceeds and handling fees going to organizations helping the fishing industry and the restoration of coastal wetlands.

Shrimping/Fishing Community and Environmental Groups from around the area, were also scheduled to join forces at Grand Isle, Louisiana to send a giant human text message to BP, President Obama, and the country in response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Supporters from New Orleans joined in for a community barbecue and provided 300 boxes of donated food from Second Harvest.

The event was a call to action for a full cleanup of the spill, restitution for lost jobs and income, and accelerated efforts towards green energy and green jobs. The event culminated in a large-scale aerial photograph of hundreds of participants delivering a message with their bodies.

All of these events are a testament to the exceptionally resilient spirit and strength of this community.

RP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 52 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP recently returned from Abu Dhabi where he traveled as the winner of the 2015 Sustainability Week blogging competition.Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com