Gulf Oil Spill Community Forum Discusses Long-Term Impacts
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06/16/10 Allie Wilkinson
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

More than 900 people crowded into the Palladium Theater last night to hear scientists, politicians, media experts and industry leaders discuss America’s largest, ongoing environmental disaster. WMNF’s Allie Wilkinson reports from St. Petersburg.

Nearly two months to the day since oil started seeping into the Gulf of Mexico the Tampa Bay community came together to discuss the long term implications and solutions relating to the spill. Chuanmin Hu, an Associate Professor at the College of Marine Science at USF said the west coast of Florida is not under immediate threat. But, Hu said, that could all change as the summer season progresses and the Gulf of Mexico warms, making hurricanes more likely.

“It’s safe for the short term, for the coming weeks. For the coming months, if we have a major hurricane, our situation will be much worse. So safe for the short term, but not for the long run.”

The concerns about the long-term impacts of the oil spill reach far beyond the hurricane season. William Hogarth, Dean of the College of Marine Science at USF, said little is known about the impact of oil and dispersants on the marine food web, which could last a decade or more.

“We are extremely concerned about the future and what’s going on in the water column as far as the food chain is concerned and how this could relate and turn into problems with our fishery populations.”

According to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, the amount of chemical dispersants used so far is approaching a world record. These dispersants break up the oil. Rob Lorei, news director at WMNF, said scientists worry about the toxic effect that it will have on marine life.

“How come our government, how come BP, is not using non-toxic ways to clean up this mess? I really want to know why BP continues to be allowed to spray this very controversial material at will on the oil leak.”

Fears about the long-term impacts weren’t just related to the environmental and health effects but also the impact that the spill will have on Florida’s economy. Particularly on tourism, a 6 billion dollar industry in Pinellas County alone. Industry officials are already seeing 20 to 30 percent declines in business. DT Minich, executive director of Visit St. Petersburg and Clearwater, said BP should be held fully responsible.

“There were 7 billion dollars worth of claims for liability with Valdez. Once the media kind of went away, they started litigation. It took 17 years for those claims to be paid. And by the time they got done, the 7 billion was down to 500 million, is what Exxon actually paid out of the pocket. We cannot have that to our economy, to the State of Florida’s economy.”

The costly burden that oil had on the Gulf economy came far before the Deepwater Horizon spill, said David Friedman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Right now we use nearly 20 million barrels of oil every single day. Over the next 20 years we are going to be sending on average about 1 billion dollars every single day to other countries, just to import oil. This year alone we are going to spend over 300 billion dollars just to buy gasoline, forget diesel, forget jet fuel, forget home heating oil. Just gasoline we are going to be spending over 300 billion dollars this year. That is a huge burden on our economy.”

The cure to America’s oil addiction is to turn to alternative energies and conservation but the fact is that transition will take time said David Pettit, a lawyer with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“You have to come to the table with solutions and that’s what we try to do and what David and the others are talking about. It’s unrealistic to tell the oil industry that you need to stop all drilling in the Gulf forever after. That’s not going to happen and I think we need to confront that. Someday we’ll have a clean energy economy and we’ll get off fossil fuels. It’s not going to happen in the next 10 years and there is going to be drilling in the Gulf. What we need to look at in that narrow perspective is how to make that as safe as possible so that these kind of spills like the Deepwater Horizon don’t happen again and if god forbid one does, we know how to clean it up.”

Comparisons were made all night between this disaster, and events like Hurricane Katrina and the Exxon Valdez spill. But geophysical engineer Dan Berard said the example that people can learn from is how Saudi Arabia dealt with the oil spill in the Persian Gulf nearly twenty years ago.

“They had a spill of 10 million barrels. That’s huge. That’s 10 times what we’ve seen. They cleaned it up in 6 months. Now, they cleaned it up in 6 months because they assigned a senior VP, a petroleum engineer, and there was no holds barred, no money spared, no people spared. They flat got after it.”

As the disaster continues, residents at the forum asked for politicians to hold BP responsible and make sure that a full and speedy recovery occurs.

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Respirators Needed For Gulf Workers

How about, Bottom Line…supply respirators for workers!! Please learn from my experience and do not end this spill cleanup with BP Collateral Damaged. My letter to Gulf residents. http://www.urbanconservancy.org/letters/gulf-coast-cleanup-caution-urged The crude oil is toxic, and anyone who cleans the oily Gulf beaches needs to know the danger. Don't allow the workers to become BP's Collateral Damaged, like Exxon. http://www.lvrj.com/news/exxon-valdez-oil-risks-spur-warning-for-gulf-cleanup-crews-93258964.html My name is Merle Savage, a female general foreman during the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) beach cleanup in 1989. I am one of the 11,000+ cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS), who is suffering from health issues from that toxic cleanup, without compensation from Exxon. Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches, and informed me that Exxon's medical records that surfaced in litigation by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5632208859935499100 Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and into the air -- the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions, central nervous system problems, neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease. http://www.silenceinthesound.com/stories.shtml My web site is devoted to searching for EVOS cleanup workers who were exposed to the toxic spraying, and are suffering from the same illnesses that I have. There is an on going Longshoreman’s claim for workers with medical problems from the oil cleanup. Our summer employment turned into a death sentence for many — and a life of unending medical conditions for the rest of Exxon’s Collateral Damaged.

Workers cleaning Gulf crude oil need respirators

I will continue my mission, until BP supplies respirators to workers on the Gulf oil cleanup crews. Dear Gulf Residents. http://www.urbanconservancy.org/letters/gulf-coast-cleanup-caution-urged The crude oil is toxic, and anyone who cleans the oily Gulf beaches needs to know the danger. http://www.lvrj.com/news/exxon-valdez-oil-risks-spur-warning-for-gulf-cleanup-crews-93258964.html My name is Merle Savage, one of the 10,000+ cleanup workers from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, suffering from health issues from that toxic cleanup. I was a female general foreman during the beach cleanup in, which turned into 20 years of extensive health deterioration for me. Dr. Riki Ott visited me in 2007 to explain about the toxic spraying on the beaches, and informed me that Exxon's medical records that surfaced in litigation by sick workers in 1994, had been sealed from the public, making it impossible to hold Exxon responsible for their actions. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5632208859935499100 Beach crews breathed in crude oil that splashed off the rocks and the toxic exposure turned into chronic breathing conditions, central nervous system problems, neurological impairment, chronic respiratory disease, leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, liver damage, and blood disease. http://www.silenceinthesound.com/stories.shtml Merle Savage 702-296-4211