Problems with dispersants and effects on corals are some lingering concerns of 2010 BP oil disaster

04/20/12 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded two years ago today in the Gulf of Mexico. It killed 11 workers and led to the worst maritime oil disaster in the U.S. The National Wildlife Federation has released a report called A Degraded Gulf Of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Two Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster. Yesterday, we heard the first half of my interview with their senior wildlife biologist Doug Inkley. In the second half he talks about about the effects of dispersants on marine life, how corals were affected by the spill and what actions could still be taken.

“We need to understand that oil if full of hundreds of different chemicals and the dispersant have various chemicals in it as well. Both of them are adding chemicals to a natural environment and both of them can cause harm in their own way. Furthermore, the combination of the two can also cause harm. One of the things that we also need to understand is that adding the dispersant to the oil does not make the oil go away. It simply breaks it up into smaller globs so it disperses more readily and then it breaks down more readily. It’s not a magic bullet that makes it disappear, that’s not at all the case. What it really does is it keeps the oil from forming a slick on the surface that dolphins and birds can get tangled in. Instead, most of the oil ends up in the water from the bottom of the gulf to the top of the gulf. So instead of it being at the surface it’s now still there but in the water.”

Researchers at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg at the College of Marine Science, they found that some of the oil that was found on deep water coral reefs, they’ve identified that, they’ve fingerprinted that to the deep water horizon spill. What can you say about the effect of oil on corals?

“Yes, dead and dying corals were reported. This is very serious and this is why I say that impacts can be lasting for decades and maybe even hundreds of years. These corals are very, very slow growing. They’re not in a very productive environment at the bottom of the gulf. A human fingernail grows about 2,000 times faster than these corals do. So when you kill one of these corals, you are taking something out of the environment that has been there for a very long time. It’s like chopping a redwood down. It’s a significant impact. You cant replace that redwood by planting a baby redwood and saying everything is back to normal.”

Well finally, Dr. Doug Inkley with the National Wildlife Federation are there any questions that I didn’t ask that you think are important for our listeners?

“I think its very important for our listeners to understand that Congress has not taken action in two key areas. Number one, Congress has not reformed. The oil and gas exploration and development regulations take place in the Gulf of Mexico. There has been no reformation since the oil spill yet drilling continues. The second thing is, unless Congress takes action, all the fines levied against BP under the clean water act for spilled oil will go into the general treasury. That’s wrong. Congress needs to take action to pass the restore act. The restore act will dedicate the fines that are collected back into the Gulf of Mexico for restoration. That’s what needs to happen.”

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