Saturday, 1 May 2010

Oil Rig Explosion Summary

Mmkay so maybe I've been procrastinating on this one for a few days because it totally bummed me out and I wasn't ready to tackle it. That and the fact that I didn't have internet access when this whole thing happened, so I was poorly informed. Anyway.

I'm sure everyone's heard by now of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. This kinda sucks.

photo credit US Coast Guard

An estimated 210,000 gallons of oil are being leaked into the Gulf per day, threatening literally hundreds of species and at least 10 wildlife refuges or management areas. Among the greater worries are the already endangered population of bluefin tuna and mammals such as dolphins that need to surface for air. Birds are particularly threatened by oil spills because when their feathers are coated with oil they are no longer able to repel water or trap air close to their bodies, resulting in the loss of the ability to keep dry and warm. Many will die of hypothermia.

Menhaden is America's third largest fishery, and the season just opened the day before the spill. They are expected to be particularly at risk due to the fact that they filter out small particles of food to feed on as they swim, which will likely be tainted with oil.

140,000 gallons of chemical dispersants have been used in the area to try to clean up the mess, along with controlled burnings and inflatable booms. Chemical dispersants work by breaking up the slicks into smaller droplets that bacteria and other processes can naturally break down. They don't actually remove any oil from the water, but the smaller particles are more likely to mix into the water column than to float on the surface and contaminate shorelines and surface marine life. This, however, is potentially bad news for bottom life such as shellfish and corals. Responders have said this has been the most effective measure so far. Robots have been used unsuccessfully to try to patch up the leak. Unfortunately, dilution is still the solution to pollution.

"No good answers to a mess this big, only degrees of damage to various life-forms," said Richard Charter, senior policy adviser for marine programs at Defenders of Wildlife.

Rescue workers have begun cleaning birds and assessing the mess...Unfortunately, with the sunken rig still leaking offshore, it looks like the situation right now will only get worse.

Ironically, an award ceremony to celebrate the safety accomplishments of the offshore drilling industry was to be held next week, but had to be postponed due to the spill. Last year BP won for "evacuation capabilities for offshore facilities". This year 11 people were killed.

Full articles here:
600-Plus Species at Risk From Deadly Gulf Oil Spill - AOL News

BP's Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: What's Under Threat Locally -

Gulf Oil Spill Fight Turns to Chemicals - National Geographic

Offshore Oil Safety Awards Luncheon Postponed - CBS News

Obama Remarks on Oil Spill - ABC News
(He doesn't seem to be taking this too seriously...)

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