Oil spill in Gulf continues to affect

Jane BeathardAn article in the summer 2012 issue of National Parks, the magazine of the National Parks Conservation Association, says environmental impact of a massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico appears less serious than originally thought. However, the clean-up may run longer than expected.

The article focuses on damage to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a string of islands located between Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. Some Gulf Islands are about 70 miles from BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform where a fire and rupture spewed out more than 170 million gallons of oil between April and July 2010.

At the time, environmental experts anticipated a disaster similar to the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill that coated shorelines and wildlife in Alaska's Prince William Sound with a thick, black ooze.

Instead, "patties" and "ropes" of oil dribbled onto Gulf Island beaches for months after the Deepwater spill, forcing workers to clean the same areas over and over. That oil is still coming and will continue to trickle in for years, meaning the clean-up will take years. It will be considered complete when there is less than 1 percent of oil coverage on beaches and no visible oil on popular recreational beaches.

Despite BP's televised claims that tourists are again flocking to the area, the article said Gulf Islands hotels are not quite up to pre-spill reservation levels. However, they are getting close.

It's also a matter of math. Scientists know how much oil escaped the rupture, but that amount has not yet washed ashore. Where's the rest? Dispersants used by clean-up crews likely sent much to the bottom of the ocean. Last spring, the U.S. Park Service sent divers to look for oil "mats" on the sea floor. It may simply be that small oil slicks will continue to pop up well into the future.

BP has promised to pay $1 billion for environmental damage to the area. Those dollars are separate from compensation paid to commercial fishermen and other private businesses.

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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