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Images from the Long Flight to the BP Spill Site

Peter Lehner

Posted July 8, 2010

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I flew over the Deepwater Horizon spill site on Wednesday, and the first thing that struck me was how far out to sea it is.

After our plane took off from Belle Chasse, Louisiana, it took us almost 30 minutes traveling over the Delta to finally reach the coast. Then we flew over open water for another 20 minutes before we got to the site.


The remote location of the well adds yet another challenge to the cleanup efforts. The Exxon Valdez spill occurred close to shore near fully equipped ports, and still it proved enormously difficult to capture the oil.

Here in the Gulf, the Deepwater Horizon is nearly 50 miles off the coast. It was astonishing to see how far cleanup crews, engineers, and relief well drillers travel to get to the site. It was also alarming to realize that the oil washing up on coastal beaches has already covered great distances—and will keep migrating farther and farther afield.

Once our seaplane arrived at the site, we saw two platforms that we were told were where workers are drilling the relief wells, two ships with enormous flares that we guessed were capturing some of the oil from the broken well, and about another 20 boats clustered around.


As we headed back toward shore, we saw red dispersants and a lot of oily sheen floating on the water.


In the distance, we spotted smoke and oil being carried off to the east with the winds.


Seeing how massive, complex, and potentially dangerous the spill operations are reinforced the need for well trained, fully empowered government oversight. Yet over the past few decades, the political trend has been to cripple our regulators by underfunding them and stripping them of the tools they need to protect the American public.

The BP spill is a vivid example of why this must change.

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Brian DonovanJul 8 2010 01:57 PM

BP and USCG have been employing an "Out-of-Sight, Out-of-Mind" strategy with the excessive use of dispersants.

Sylvia Earle, the National Geographic’s explorer-in-residence and former chief scientist at NOAA, stated that “the instructions for humans using Corexit warn that it is an eye and skin irritant, is harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed, and may cause injury to red blood cells, kidney or the liver.” “People are warned not to take Corexit internally,” she said, “but the fish, turtles, copepods and jellies have no choice.”

Earle further states, “We don’t know what the effect of dispersants applied a mile underwater is; there’s been no laboratory testing of that at all, or the effect of what it does when it combines with oil a mile underwater.” One problem with breaking down the oil is that it makes it easier for the many tiny underwater organisms to ingest this toxic soup.

Pursuant to NCP Section 300.310, “As appropriate, actions shall be taken to recover the oil or mitigate its effects. Of the numerous chemical or physical methods that may be used, the chosen methods shall be the most consistent with protecting public health and welfare and the environment. Sinking agents shall not be used.” Sinking agents means those additives applied to oil discharges to sink floating pollutants below the water surface. The question is whether BP’s dispersants are “sinking agents” when they are applied a mile underwater at the source of the well leak.


Jerry H CrutchfieldJul 10 2010 09:30 PM

Our"Earth"is bleeding...........
What are we thinking?

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