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3 Surprising Sources of Oil Pollution in the Ocean

3 Surprising Sources of Oil Pollution in the Ocean.

Seeping oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

An iridescent sheen spreads from a drop of crude oil on top of the water in the Gulf of Mexico.

PHOTOGRAPH BY JONATHAN BLAIR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

Christine Dell’Amore and Christina Nunez

National Geographic

PUBLISHED MARCH 25, 2014

Obvious oil spills, like the 168,000 gallons (635,000 liters) of oil that leaked into Galveston Bay on Saturday, usually make national news, accompanied by pictures of oil-blackened wildlife.

But such publicized events account for only a small part of the total amount of oil pollution in the oceans—and many of the other sources, such as automobile oil, go largely unnoticed, scientists say.

In fact, of the tens of millions of gallons of oil that enter North Americanoceans each year due to human activities, only 8 percent comes from tanker or oil pipeline spills, according to the 2003 book Oil in the Sea III by the U.S. National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, which is still considered the authority on oil-spill data.

Most oil pollution is “different than the pictures you see of beaches covered with tar and ducks getting stuck in it,” said David Valentine, a biogeochemist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. (Read more about how pollution harms the oceans.)

Here are three little-reported sources of oil that contribute to oil pollution in North American oceans.

1. Natural Seeps

Natural seeps of oil underneath the Earth’s surface account for 60 percent of the estimated total load in North American waters and 40 percent worldwide, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

These leakages occur when oil—which is lighter than water—escapes into the water column from highly pressurized seafloor rock. (Read about Gulf of Mexico seeps.)

Off Santa Barbara, California, some 20 to 25 tons of oil flows from seafloor cracks daily—making it one of the world’s largest seeps.

Valentine, who studies the Santa Barbara seep, noted that much of the natural oil is consumed by ocean bacteria that have evolved to eat certain oil molecules. (Read about how nature tackles oil spills.)

But in “places which don’t have natural oil seeps and you come along with an oil spill or a sewer pipe that delivers [oil pollution], organisms have not had an opportunity to adapt and are going to respond differently,” said John Farrington, dean emeritus and marine geochemist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.

2. Cars and Other Land Vehicles

A “pretty big issue,” Valentine said, is the oil on roads and other surfaces that’s flushed into the sea during rainstorms.

Most cars drip oil onto the ground, usually on impermeable concrete or asphalt, and that oil ends up trickling into the ocean. In drier places like California, the oil builds up on the asphalt and, when it finally rains, the water shuttles large amounts of oil into the ocean.

“We’re doing a much better job than 40 or 50 years ago of recycling motor oil,” Woods Hole’s Farrington said. “You can find storm sewers around the nation that have stencils on them that say ‘don’t dump, it goes to the sea.’ So there’s less input in that regard.”

But he notes that there are still a lot of cars and trucks contributing to the “dribble, dribble, dribble” effect of slow leaks that end up on asphalt and contribute to runoff pollution.

Not surprisingly, this sort of invisible pollution is more subtle than the Galveston Bay spill, which is much more localized and visible, Valentine noted.

Oil runoff from land is “complex in that it can hang around [in the ocean] and move between water and sediment, [which] makes it difficult to effectively track.”

A hotly debated topic, he added, is what these constant pulses of oil are doing to the environment and its inhabitants. Scientists know that animals directly exposed to oil suffer health problems, but what’s unknown is the impact of low, chronic oil exposures on wildlife, he said. (Related: “On 25th Exxon Valdez Anniversary, Oil Still Clings to Beaches.”)

3. Recreational Boats

People operating recreational craft, such as Jet Skis and boats, sometimes spill oil into the ocean.

“It’s usually operational error, human error or unpreparedness, [or] lack of education. A lot of time mostly it’s just negligence,” said Aaron Barnett, a boating program specialist at Washington Sea Grant, a state-federal partnership aimed at marine research and outreach across Washington State.

“It’s just not on [boaters’] radar scope. They’re there to have fun, it’s leisure, it’s recreation. … That means that certain things don’t get dealt with, like proper engine maintenance.”

Barnett added that boat owners will top off their fuel tanks as they would a car, and on a hot day the fuel expands and escapes through a vent.

Just like land-based pollution, though, oil spills by recreational boats are “hard to track, because about 80 percent of oil spills go unreported, so there’s really no way to know” on what scale this is happening, Barnett said.

Overall, he said, the Environmental Protection Agency “looks at the small-oil-spill problem as sort of like death by a thousand cuts.”

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com.

BY SEAN COCKERHAM

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 21, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

FILE – In this April 9, 1989 file photo, crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez, top, swirls on the surface of Alaska’s Prince William Sound near Naked Island. The 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude, struck Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989, and within hours unleashed an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the water. Storms and currents then smeared it over 1,300 miles of shoreline. Twenty five years later, the region, its people and its wildfire are still recovering. JOHN GAPS III, FILE — AP Photo

Andy Wills was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Cordova, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, ready to head out and harvest spring herring in Prince William Sound.

“My buddy had just handed me a cup of coffee in the morning and we’re watching ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Wills said. “And there’s the Exxon Valdez on TV, spilling oil.”

“We were like, ‘No!’ It was just the start of a nightmare,” Wills said.

The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the sound.

Prince William Sound today looks spectacular, a stunning landscape of mountainous fjords, blue-green waters and thickly forested islands. Pick up a stone on a rocky beach, maybe dig a little, though, and it is possible to still find pockets of oil.

“I think the big surprise for all of us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the continued presence of relatively fresh oil,” said Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The question of how well Prince William Sound has recovered from what at the time was the nation’s largest oil spill is a contentious one. Exxon Mobil Corp. cites studies showing a rebound.

“The sound is thriving environmentally and we’ve had a very solid, complete recovery,” said Richard Keil, senior media relations adviser with Exxon Mobil.

Government scientists have a different view.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, a state-federal group set up to oversee restoration of Prince William Sound, considers the pink and sockeye salmon to be recovered, as well as the bald eagles and harbor seals. Several other species are listed as recovering but not recovered.

Sea otters have had a rough time. Thousands died in the months following the spill, and the population has struggled to recover in the 25 years since. The U.S. Geological Survey reported earlier this month that the sea otters of the area had finally returned to their pre-spill numbers.

Listed as still not recovering are the herring, a group of killer whales and the pigeon guillemots, a North Pacific seabird.

Rick Steiner, an oceans activist and former professor at the University of Alaska, said the “spill is not over. The damage persists in quite remarkable ways.”

Wills, who fished salmon as well as herring, said the spill left a huge mark on those who made a living from Prince William Sound.

Exxon compensation checks were too late and too little, he said.

“A lot of people got real hurt. I know a lot of guys committed suicide and all that stuff. I got divorced, had an ulcer. It was rough,” said Wills, who now runs a bookshop and cafe in Homer, Alaska.

Among the scientific puzzles of the spill, the fate of the herring is a particular mystery. It’s a vital species for the ecosystem, giving protein to whales, salmon, birds and others.

Prince William Sound was home to a lucrative spring herring fishery that supported fishermen badly in need of cash coming off the long winter in between fishing seasons.

Researchers found lesions and larval abnormalities in herring exposed to the oil. Then, four years after the spill, the herring population crashed dramatically. The reasons are a subject of intense debate, with suggestions that the effects of the spill could have made the herring vulnerable to disease.

“No other stock in Alaska crashed in 1993, so that’s indirect evidence it is spill-related,” said Jeep Rice, who studied the spill for more than two decades as a federal scientist. “That’s kind of weak, and yet it is about as good as we can get in terms of explaining why it happened in that year.”

The herring never really recovered, and the current population is too low to overcome predators. Herring fishing, with a brief exception, has been closed for more than 20 years.

The killer whales of Prince William Sound also have suffered. Two groups were hit especially hard. Scientists saw killer whales from one of the groups swimming through heavy sheens of oil. A Los Angeles Times photo showed whales from the other group swimming near the tanker as it gushed oil. Populations dropped dramatically in the year after the spill.

“The evidence is pretty compelling that it was a spill-related effect on those two groups of killer whales,” said federal marine biologist Shigenaka.

One of the groups continues its slow recovery. The other numbered 22 killer whales at the time of the spill and is down to just seven. Scientists now expect it to go extinct, the end of a genetic line that researchers say has hunted in the area for thousands of years, maybe since the last Ice Age.

The federal and state governments are still weighing the science of the spill’s effects and deciding whether to seek more money from Exxon Mobil for cleaning up remaining oil.

If there is evidence the spill is causing unexpected, continuing damage, the company could be forced to pay up to $100 million on top of the $900 million civil settlement that Exxon paid in 1991. The case lives on in the courts.

The federal and state governments have said more studies are needed, a frustration for federal Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland.

“The court is dismayed that so few of the projects that the governments had expected to be completed by now have been completed,” Holland wrote in a filing last year.

Studies measuring the effects on sea otters and harlequin ducks have now been completed and are awaiting peer review before being released to the public, the federal and state governments said in their latest court filing last week. They said they are still awaiting a study on the effectiveness of techniques for lessening the remaining oil; they figure it is at least two months away from release.

The governments said they are reviewing the results of other studies and will be consulting with the Department of Justice about whether to proceed with seeking money from Exxon Mobil.

They told the judge their next update on the case will be in October, as it approaches 26 years since the Exxon Valdez became the most notorious tanker in history.

Sean Cockerham is a reporter in the Daily News Washington bureau. Emailscockerham@mcclatchydc.com.

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com

25 years later, oil spilled from Exxon Valdez still clings to lives, Alaska habitat | State News | ADN.com.

BY SEAN COCKERHAM

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 21, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

FILE – In this April 9, 1989 file photo, crude oil from the tanker Exxon Valdez, top, swirls on the surface of Alaska’s Prince William Sound near Naked Island. The 987-foot tanker, carrying 53 million gallons of crude, struck Bligh Reef at 12:04 a.m. on March 24, 1989, and within hours unleashed an estimated 10.8 million gallons of thick, toxic crude oil into the water. Storms and currents then smeared it over 1,300 miles of shoreline. Twenty five years later, the region, its people and its wildfire are still recovering. JOHN GAPS III, FILE — AP Photo

Andy Wills was sleeping on a friend’s couch in Cordova, Alaska, on March 24, 1989, ready to head out and harvest spring herring in Prince William Sound.

“My buddy had just handed me a cup of coffee in the morning and we’re watching ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Wills said. “And there’s the Exxon Valdez on TV, spilling oil.”

“We were like, ‘No!’ It was just the start of a nightmare,” Wills said.

The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the sound.

Prince William Sound today looks spectacular, a stunning landscape of mountainous fjords, blue-green waters and thickly forested islands. Pick up a stone on a rocky beach, maybe dig a little, though, and it is possible to still find pockets of oil.

“I think the big surprise for all of us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the continued presence of relatively fresh oil,” said Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The question of how well Prince William Sound has recovered from what at the time was the nation’s largest oil spill is a contentious one. Exxon Mobil Corp. cites studies showing a rebound.

“The sound is thriving environmentally and we’ve had a very solid, complete recovery,” said Richard Keil, senior media relations adviser with Exxon Mobil.

Government scientists have a different view.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, a state-federal group set up to oversee restoration of Prince William Sound, considers the pink and sockeye salmon to be recovered, as well as the bald eagles and harbor seals. Several other species are listed as recovering but not recovered.

Sea otters have had a rough time. Thousands died in the months following the spill, and the population has struggled to recover in the 25 years since. The U.S. Geological Survey reported earlier this month that the sea otters of the area had finally returned to their pre-spill numbers.

Listed as still not recovering are the herring, a group of killer whales and the pigeon guillemots, a North Pacific seabird.

Rick Steiner, an oceans activist and former professor at the University of Alaska, said the “spill is not over. The damage persists in quite remarkable ways.”

Wills, who fished salmon as well as herring, said the spill left a huge mark on those who made a living from Prince William Sound.

Exxon compensation checks were too late and too little, he said.

“A lot of people got real hurt. I know a lot of guys committed suicide and all that stuff. I got divorced, had an ulcer. It was rough,” said Wills, who now runs a bookshop and cafe in Homer, Alaska.

Among the scientific puzzles of the spill, the fate of the herring is a particular mystery. It’s a vital species for the ecosystem, giving protein to whales, salmon, birds and others.

Prince William Sound was home to a lucrative spring herring fishery that supported fishermen badly in need of cash coming off the long winter in between fishing seasons.

Researchers found lesions and larval abnormalities in herring exposed to the oil. Then, four years after the spill, the herring population crashed dramatically. The reasons are a subject of intense debate, with suggestions that the effects of the spill could have made the herring vulnerable to disease.

“No other stock in Alaska crashed in 1993, so that’s indirect evidence it is spill-related,” said Jeep Rice, who studied the spill for more than two decades as a federal scientist. “That’s kind of weak, and yet it is about as good as we can get in terms of explaining why it happened in that year.”

The herring never really recovered, and the current population is too low to overcome predators. Herring fishing, with a brief exception, has been closed for more than 20 years.

The killer whales of Prince William Sound also have suffered. Two groups were hit especially hard. Scientists saw killer whales from one of the groups swimming through heavy sheens of oil. A Los Angeles Times photo showed whales from the other group swimming near the tanker as it gushed oil. Populations dropped dramatically in the year after the spill.

“The evidence is pretty compelling that it was a spill-related effect on those two groups of killer whales,” said federal marine biologist Shigenaka.

One of the groups continues its slow recovery. The other numbered 22 killer whales at the time of the spill and is down to just seven. Scientists now expect it to go extinct, the end of a genetic line that researchers say has hunted in the area for thousands of years, maybe since the last Ice Age.

The federal and state governments are still weighing the science of the spill’s effects and deciding whether to seek more money from Exxon Mobil for cleaning up remaining oil.

If there is evidence the spill is causing unexpected, continuing damage, the company could be forced to pay up to $100 million on top of the $900 million civil settlement that Exxon paid in 1991. The case lives on in the courts.

The federal and state governments have said more studies are needed, a frustration for federal Alaska District Court Judge H. Russel Holland.

“The court is dismayed that so few of the projects that the governments had expected to be completed by now have been completed,” Holland wrote in a filing last year.

Studies measuring the effects on sea otters and harlequin ducks have now been completed and are awaiting peer review before being released to the public, the federal and state governments said in their latest court filing last week. They said they are still awaiting a study on the effectiveness of techniques for lessening the remaining oil; they figure it is at least two months away from release.

The governments said they are reviewing the results of other studies and will be consulting with the Department of Justice about whether to proceed with seeking money from Exxon Mobil.

They told the judge their next update on the case will be in October, as it approaches 26 years since the Exxon Valdez became the most notorious tanker in history.

Sean Cockerham is a reporter in the Daily News Washington bureau. Emailscockerham@mcclatchydc.com.

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans.

wwltv.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Updated yesterday at 6:01 PM

Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said the spill hadn’t been contained as of 10 p.m., and that the collision was still being investigated.

The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, that was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn’t give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene.

Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons.

“A large amount of that has been discharged,” Kidd said. He said a plan was being developed to remove the remaining oil from the barge, but the removal had not begun.

The barge was resting on the bottom of the channel, with part of it submerged. He said boom was being set up in the water to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and that people would be working through the night with infrared cameras to locate and skim the oil.

The barge was being towed from Texas City to Bolivar at the time. The Coast Guard said that Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the tow vessel and barge, was working with it and the Texas General Land Office at the scene.

The Coast Guard said six crew members from the tow vessel were in stable condition, but it offered no details about their injuries.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff.”

“That stuff is terrible to have to clean up,” he said.

Mild weather and calm water seemed to help containment efforts, but stormy weather was forecast for the area on Sunday. Suydam said almost every private cleanup outfit in the area was out there helping out under the coordination of the Coast Guard and General Land Office.

Bruce Clawson, the director of the Texas City Homeland Security, told The Daily News in Galveston that the barge sank, but that there is no danger to the community, which is about 40 miles southeast of downtown Houston. Suydam said he could not confirm whether the barge sank.

Tara Kilgore, an operations coordinator with Kirby Inland Marine, declined to comment Saturday.

On its Facebook page, Texas City Emergency Management said the dike and all parks on the water are closed until further notice. And the Coast Guard said that part of the Houston ship channel was closed to traffic.

Richard Gibbons, the conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, said there is very important shorebird habitat on both sides of the Houston ship channel.

Audubon has the internationally-recognized Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary just to the east, which Gibbons said attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat. He did not know how much oil had been spilled, but said authorities were aware of the sanctuaries and had practiced using containment booms in the past.

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” Gibbons said. He added that tens of thousands of wintering birds remain in the area.

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Suydam said that spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office’s Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill. The division does extensive response planning including pre-positioned equipment along the Texas coast.

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans

Major oil spill after million-gallon barge collides with ship in Texas | wwltv.com New Orleans.

wwltv.com

Posted on March 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Updated yesterday at 6:01 PM

Associated Press

McALLEN, Texas — A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

Booms were brought in to try to contain the spill, which the Coast Guard said was reported at around 12:30 p.m. by the captain of the 585-foot ship, Summer Wind. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Kristopher Kidd said the spill hadn’t been contained as of 10 p.m., and that the collision was still being investigated.

The ship collided with a barge carrying 924,000 gallons of marine fuel oil, also known as special bunker, that was being towed by the vessel Miss Susan, the Coast Guard said. It didn’t give an estimate of how much fuel had spilled into the bay, but there was a visible sheen of oil at the scene.

Officials believe only one of the barge’s tanks was breached, but that tank had a capacity of 168,000 gallons.

“A large amount of that has been discharged,” Kidd said. He said a plan was being developed to remove the remaining oil from the barge, but the removal had not begun.

The barge was resting on the bottom of the channel, with part of it submerged. He said boom was being set up in the water to protect environmentally-sensitive areas and that people would be working through the night with infrared cameras to locate and skim the oil.

The barge was being towed from Texas City to Bolivar at the time. The Coast Guard said that Kirby Inland Marine, which owns the tow vessel and barge, was working with it and the Texas General Land Office at the scene.

The Coast Guard said six crew members from the tow vessel were in stable condition, but it offered no details about their injuries.

Jim Suydam, spokesman for the General Land Office, described the type of oil the barge was carrying as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry stuff.”

“That stuff is terrible to have to clean up,” he said.

Mild weather and calm water seemed to help containment efforts, but stormy weather was forecast for the area on Sunday. Suydam said almost every private cleanup outfit in the area was out there helping out under the coordination of the Coast Guard and General Land Office.

Bruce Clawson, the director of the Texas City Homeland Security, told The Daily News in Galveston that the barge sank, but that there is no danger to the community, which is about 40 miles southeast of downtown Houston. Suydam said he could not confirm whether the barge sank.

Tara Kilgore, an operations coordinator with Kirby Inland Marine, declined to comment Saturday.

On its Facebook page, Texas City Emergency Management said the dike and all parks on the water are closed until further notice. And the Coast Guard said that part of the Houston ship channel was closed to traffic.

Richard Gibbons, the conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society, said there is very important shorebird habitat on both sides of the Houston ship channel.

Audubon has the internationally-recognized Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary just to the east, which Gibbons said attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds to shallow mud flats that are perfect foraging habitat. He did not know how much oil had been spilled, but said authorities were aware of the sanctuaries and had practiced using containment booms in the past.

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” Gibbons said. He added that tens of thousands of wintering birds remain in the area.

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska. Suydam said that spill spurred the creation of the General Land Office’s Oil Spill and Prevention Division, which is funded by a tax on imported oil that the state legislature passed after the Valdez spill. The division does extensive response planning including pre-positioned equipment along the Texas coast.

Jesse’s Café Américain: Third World America – The Big Fix: The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill Coverup

Jesse’s Café Américain: Third World America – The Big Fix: The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill Coverup.

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Disaster, perhaps it is a good time to remember the great success it represents, the success in shifting the thoughts of attention deficient Americans from the things that really matter, like honest and accountable government.

Is anything really different, or have we just been prompted to move on and think about something else?  Will the US be better prepared to deal with the next financial or environmental crisis?

Are portions of the US any different from other third world countries that are sacked of their resources, their people impoverished, their quality of life ruined, and their children left with little or no hope for the future?

Hope and change.

Related:

BP Get Slick In Trying to Undermine Gulf Oil Spill Settlement
Fish Suffering Heart Failure and Decreased Numbers Due to BP Oil Spill
BP Oil Spill Causes Heart Damage Killing Tuna
Gulf War Syndrome Comes to the Gulf of Mexico?

POSTED BY JESSE AT 11:52 AM

Jesse's Café Américain: Third World America – The Big Fix: The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill Coverup

Jesse’s Café Américain: Third World America – The Big Fix: The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill Coverup.

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Disaster, perhaps it is a good time to remember the great success it represents, the success in shifting the thoughts of attention deficient Americans from the things that really matter, like honest and accountable government.

Is anything really different, or have we just been prompted to move on and think about something else?  Will the US be better prepared to deal with the next financial or environmental crisis?

Are portions of the US any different from other third world countries that are sacked of their resources, their people impoverished, their quality of life ruined, and their children left with little or no hope for the future?

Hope and change.

Related:

BP Get Slick In Trying to Undermine Gulf Oil Spill Settlement
Fish Suffering Heart Failure and Decreased Numbers Due to BP Oil Spill
BP Oil Spill Causes Heart Damage Killing Tuna
Gulf War Syndrome Comes to the Gulf of Mexico?

POSTED BY JESSE AT 11:52 AM

Why an accidental leak should send shivers up Big Oil’s spine | Jeff Rubin

Why an accidental leak should send shivers up Big Oil’s spine | Jeff Rubin.

Posted by Jeff Rubin on February 18th, 2014 under SmallerWorld

One of the largest accidental releases of oil in Alberta’s history isn’t a burst pipeline and it doesn’t involve a train of tanker cars derailing into a river. It’s also not a thing of the past. It’s been going on for about a year and it’s still happening. An estimated 12,000 barrels of bitumen and water has now risen from giant cracks in the forest floor at an underground oil sands project run by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.

Oil leaks are a regrettable fact of life in the business, but this one might send shivers up the spine of even a veteran oilman. CNRL insists the seepage is due to the failure of four well bores that are supposed to draw oil from its Primrose project, near Cold Lake, to the processing facilities on the surface. Others, including even Alberta’s pro-industry energy regulator, aren’t so sure.

The well bores are separated by several kilometers, which calls into question why four would fail at the same time. A more frightening theory that’s gaining currency suggests CNRL may have overpressurized the underground formation causing the caprock closer to the surface to fracture, which is allowing the bitumen to seep upwards.

Primrose is a so-called in situ oil sands play, which means it uses a process that involves heating bitumen in the ground to a point where its viscosity allows it to be pumped to the surface. It doesn’t create the moonscapes and toxic tailings ponds that have become the signature features of oil sands mining projects, but it’s also not without its environmental footmarks. At Primrose, CNRL, for instance, has been ordered to pump more than 400,000 cubic meters of contaminated water from a small lake contaminated by the bitumen seepage. On a broader scale, the enormous amount of steam needed to extract bitumen from in situ plays, makes the undertaking more carbon intensive than even the mining projects that begin by stripping all traces of the original boreal forest from the landscape.

The carbon trail from in situ projects isn’t the only worry. The extraction method may also be having more of an impact on the earth itself than was previously thought. Geologists have found that injecting massive amounts of steam into bitumen deposits can actually lift the ground cover by more than a foot a month. If this upheaval fractures the caprock then that’s one less barrier left to stop the uncontrolled flow of bitumen to the surface.

The proliferation of such unconventional extraction methods, as the US experience with fracturing shale rock shows, can also have unintended seismic effects. In Oklahoma and other places, for instance, fracking has been linked to earthquake activity.

So far, the Alberta Energy Regulator has yet to deliver a final verdict on the Primrose leak, although it did recently move to limit the amount of steam that CNRL can inject into its wells. While the provincial energy regulator — led by a former EnCana executive and president of the oil industry’s lobby group — does seem to be suspicious of CNRL’s proffered explanation for the seepage, it has yet to order the company to stop injecting steam at its Primrose operations. The longer bitumen keeps seeping to the surface, though, the more pressure the regulator will face to do so.

Whether CNRL’s problems at Primrose are specific to that site or will become a more generic issue for the industry remains to be seen. But with 80 percent of the massive expansion planned for the oil sands coming from in situ production, it’s a question that investors in oil sands stocks will soon want answered.

Activist Post: West Virginia Health Officials Refuse to Accept Experts Findings on Elk River Contamination

Activist Post: West Virginia Health Officials Refuse to Accept Experts Findings on Elk River Contamination.

Chris Carrington
Activist Post

Even though the water in West Virginia has been declared safe, hospital admissions related to the spill have increased.

What has transpired is that the Center for Disease Control has set safety standards for pure MCHM (4-methylcyclohexaneemethol), but the stuff polluting the Elk River was far from pure. Containing a mix of up to seven chemicals, the crude MCHM that was discharged into the Elk River was something else entirely, and the CDC safety standards set for MCHM don’t cover it when mixed with other chemicals, what is referred to as crude MCHM.

Investigators still don’t know the full composition of the 10,000 gallon discharge into the Elk River. Freedom Industries, the company responsible with maintaining the storage tanks, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and, although hit with numerous law suits regarding the spill, they have been slow to provide information on the toxic cocktail that entered the river.

What is known is that water testing by the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board has shown that formaldehyde is present in the water supply. Scott Simonton of WVEQB said:

“I can guarantee that citizens in this valley are, at least in some instances, breathing formaldehyde. They’re taking a hot shower. This stuff is breaking down into formaldehyde in the shower or in the water system, and they’re inhaling it.”

“It’s frightening, it really is frightening,” the Charleston Gazette quoted Simonton telling state lawmakers. ”What we know scares us, and we know there’s a lot more we don’t know.”

He continued:

“We know that (crude MCHM) turns into other things, and these other things are bad,”.”And we haven’t been looking for those other things. So we can’t say the water is safe yet. We just absolutely cannot.”

Now that officials know other chemicals were present, they can start the process of hunting them down. The fear is that even though the all clear was given regarding the levels of pure MCHM, other chemicals, either singularly or in combination, could well be lurking in domestic pipes and tanks, and that those chemicals could break down into yet more harmful components.

For this reason residents have been told to flush their domestic systems to remove any lurking toxins, but even the best way to do that is open to dispute with experts disagreeing on the best method to use.

Andrew Welton, an environmental engineer from the University of South Alabama, went to West Virginia after the leak. He has been assisting residents to purge their systems, but using different guidelines to those used in West Virginia. For example, he recommends that residents should open windows and doors before starting the process and should use fans to remove fumes from homes. West Virginia officials say this is un-necessary.

Speaking to The West Virginia Gazette he said:

“I can’t believe they aren’t doing this. These issues aren’t being addressed. The long-term consequences of this spill are not being addressed.”

In another twist The commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health, Dr Letitia Tierney DISMISSED Simontons statement and said that the formaldehyde detected was unrelated to the chemical spill.

“Formaldehyde is naturally produced in very small amounts in our bodies as part of our normal, everyday metabolism and causes no harm,” Tierney’s statement said. “It can also be found in the air that we breathe at home and at work, in the food we eat, and in some products that we put on our skin.”

Simonton countered:

“Your level of what risk you will accept is up to you,” Simonton said. “I can only tell you what mine is, and I’m not drinking the water. (source)

While the arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong, it’s interesting to note that West Virginia officials are blaming the winter for some of the hospital admissions. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office pointed to many reasons why hospital admissions are rising, namely the inability of a large number of people to wash their hands, which is an odd thing to say if they believe the water is safe to use. Or maybe they have washed their hands, and that’s why they are sick.

“We’re in the middle of flu and virus season,” Dr. Letitia Tierney of the state Bureau of Public Health said in the statement. “While the [hand] sanitizer is good for cleaning, it isn’t great for eliminating a virus. Some people are getting these viruses, as many people do every winter. In addition, a lot of people are getting very anxious. Anxiety is a real diagnosis, and it can be really hard on people and it’s OK to be seen by a health professional to ensure you’re OK.”

West Virginia health officials are playing around with the well-being of 300,000 people. It would be good if they could cut the crap and sort this situation out before someone dies.

Read more here and here.

Contributed by Chris Carrington of The Daily Sheeple where this article first appeared.

Chris Carrington is a writer, researcher and lecturer with a background in science, technology and environmental studies. Chris is an editor for The Daily Sheeple. Wake the flock up!

Looking Back at 2013: Photos of Climate Chaos, Natural Disasters, Heartache and Hope | DeSmogBlog

Looking Back at 2013: Photos of Climate Chaos, Natural Disasters, Heartache and Hope | DeSmogBlog.

Looking Back at 2013: Photos of Climate Chaos, Natural Disasters, Heartache and Hope

Today, we wrap up 2013 with a slideshow of photographs taken this past year by DeSmog contributor Julie Dermansky. We’re grateful to have Julie on our team, and as you can see from her photographs, she witnessed some awe-inspiring and awful scenes in 2013.

A self-described Accidental Chronicler of Climate Change, Julie lives in New Orleans and has traveled the globe reporting on some of the most important stories of our times through her photojournalism and writing — Hurricanes Katrina and Ivan, Superstorm Sandy, earthquake-ravaged Haiti, the BP Gulf oil disaster, war-torn Iraq, genocide in Rwanda and lots more.

She joined DeSmogBlog in August, and quickly became an invaluable member of our team with her in-depth multimedia coverage of the Louisiana sinkhole, the battle over the southern half of Keystone XL, the fracking bonanza in Texas, the ongoing fallout of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and more.

Sit back and take a journey through Julie’s lens as we remember some of the biggest disasters and climate stories of 2013.

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