Tag Archives: Oil Spill

Oil Spill Shows how Fragile Ecosystems Can be

This past weekend around 160,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into Galveston Bay following a collision between two ships.

High waves driven by wind made containing the spill impossible and oil reached some areas on shore and also lead to the closure of the Houston Ship Channel during the early phases of the cleanup effort.

Besides the container ships and tankers that were left waiting for the Ship Channel to reopen passengers aboard two cruise ships were delayed and the ferry linking Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula was closed as a result of the spill.

While 160,000 gallons of oil sounds like a lot of oil it is a mere drop in the bucket compared to some of the worst oil spills in history.

Pelicans like this one are especially susceptible to oil spills. Photo R. Anderson

Pelicans like this one are especially susceptible to oil spills.
Photo R. Anderson

Still, even a drop in the bucket can have long reaching implications. And when that drop of oil in the bucket occurs during prime bird migration season the sticky situation can be even worse.

Oil covered birds have already been discovered and there will likely be more found before the clean up is complete but there is more to the impacts of the spill then some oil covered birds and fish.

Impacts of crude oil will likely be felt all the way to the bottom of the food chain with the total impacts not known for years.

Few would argue that oil is an important part of life and is needed for everything from transportation to power generation and it is not realistic to say that society needs to be completely oil free.

Effects of oil spills are often felt all the way to the bottom of marine ecosystems which means finding the total impact can often take decades. Photo R. Anderson

Effects of oil spills are often felt all the way to the bottom of marine ecosystems which means finding the total impact can often take decades.
Photo R. Anderson

While there are alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power that can help reduce the amount of petroleum products society needs the simple fact is the industrialized world cannot function without fossil fuels.

As such every possible precaution is taken to ensure the safe manufacturing and transporting of oil from the time it leaves the ground until the final product is placed in the consumer’s hand.

Despite all of these precautions there are occasionally spills and other accidents such as the one that occurred over the weekend.

When things do go wrong in the oil manufacturing process and entire ecosystems are put at risk it becomes time to look at all sides of the argument and ensure that impacts are minimized and the oil is removed in the safest way possible.

Birds that land in oil require quick attention to prevent lasting effects and death. Photo R. Anderson

Birds that land in oil require quick attention to prevent lasting effects and death.
Photo R. Anderson

We are approaching the fourth anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon incident where the Gulf of Mexico was inundated over 87 days with an estimated total discharge at 4.9 million barrels  of oil, which is roughly 210 million gallons.

The 2010 spill, which is also referred to as the BP Oil Spill, was the largest oil spill to occur in the waters off of the United States.

Even now many groups are monitoring the Gulf of Mexico for signs of damage to the ecosystem. While trends such as a rise in dolphin fatality rates have been observed the total impacts related to the spill will not be known for decades.

It should be noted that there are ships and other modes or transport that travel safely through the waters and roads on a daily basis so oil spills are certainly the exception more than the rule but it is an exception with dire consequences.

Oil runs the boats in the marina and under most circumstances can coexist with marine life unless it it spilled directly into the environment such as was the case recently in Galveston Bay. Photo R. Anderson

Oil runs the boats in the marina and under most circumstances can coexist with marine life unless it it spilled directly into the environment such as was the case recently in Galveston Bay.
Photo R. Anderson

Generations of people have counted on the Gulf of Mexico for food and relaxation. And with the right steps now it should be available for generations to come.

The same is true of Galveston Bay which has large recreational and professional fishing communities that count on the wildlife within its waters to be free of contaminants and safe to eat.

There is certainly more to life than a stroll on the beach or a quiet day out on the fishing pier. But everybody deserves the option to stroll on that beach and fish from that pier oil free when the time to does come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about marine ecosystems has me craving some scallops with Old Bay Seasoning.

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Three Years Later, Trouble Still Bubbling Under the Surface

As I have previously noted the beaches around Pensacola, FL are some of my favorite places to go when I need to get a sand and surf fix.

With miles of sugar sand and clear water there really is not a better place to recharge one’s batteries and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Oil from a 2010 natural disaster was recently discovered along the Gulf of Mexico showing that the clean-up is far from over. Photo R. Anderson

Oil from a 2010 natural disaster was recently discovered along the Gulf of Mexico showing that the clean-up is far from over.
Photo R. Anderson

That pristine getaway was placed in the cross hairs of a natural disaster in 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon incident occurred.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Deepwater Horizon was an oil platform that had a major malfunction which lead to oil spilling freely into the Gulf of Mexico.

The well was eventually capped and the flow of oil was stopped but not before beaches from Florida to Texas felt the effects.

For weeks after the spill crews scoured the areas most impacted and performed remediation efforts to help affected wildlife and land.

In Florida countless man hours were spent ensuring that those beaches remained pristine and oil free. When oil was spotted it was quickly removed.

All seemed to be in the clear but recent activities have shown that there is still work to be done below the surface to ensure that the entire Gulf of Mexico recovers from the spill.

The Gulf is a popular recreational and commercial fishing area. Fish populations will continue to be monitored for affects from a 2010 oil spill. Photo R. Anderson

The Gulf is a popular recreational and commercial fishing area. Fish populations will continue to be monitored for affects from a 2010 oil spill.
Photo R. Anderson

According to the Pensacola News Journal, about 450 pounds of weathered oil was mined from the surf zone on Pensacola Beach during a recent10-day excavation project.

Many locals had long thought that there was still oil in the water and now those fears appear to be warranted.

The pockets of hidden oil show that the problem goes far beyond just surface impacts due to the absorbent nature of sand.

Other projects have shown effects on wildlife in the oil zone to also be worse than originally thought.  Various levels of the food chain will continue to be monitored to see what impacts are being felt.  Sadly, it will most likely be decades before the full impact is known.

Few would argue that oil is an important part of life and is needed for everything from transportation to power generation. But, when things do go wrong in the drilling for oil and entire ecosystems are but at risk it becomes time to look at all sides of the argument and ensure that impacts are minimized and the oil is removed in the safest way possible.

Crabs are just one of the many elements of the food chain that stands to be affected from the 2010 oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico. Photo R. Anderson

Crabs are just one of the many elements of the food chain that stands to be affected from the 2010 oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo R. Anderson

I certainly don’t want to paint the picture that the beaches are just one big oil sponge.

I have been to the beaches of Pensacola several times since the spill occurred and to the naked eye life does appear to have returned to normal with the sand and water still as clean as I recall.  And when  I dig in the sand it is not like I become Jed Clampett with bubbling crude coming out of the ground.

What I am saying is that the diligence needs to continue to ensure that as much of the hidden oil as possible is removed.

Generations of people have counted on the Gulf of Mexico for food and relaxation. And with the right steps now it should be available for generations to come.

There is certainly more to life than a stroll on the beach. But everybody deserves the option to stroll on that beach and to stroll oil free when the time to stroll does come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about oil reminds me that I need to go change the oil in my car.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson