This story was originally published by HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Seventy miles off the coast of Louisiana, among a maze of drilling platforms and seafloor pipelines, thousands of 55-gallon drums containing hazardous industrial chemicals litter a vast, dark swath of the ocean floor. They’ve been sitting there for nearly 50 years.
Charles McCreery was a few months into a new job as an oceanographer and water quality expert at the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management when he first learned of the dumping ground. It was 2014, and he was tasked with reviewing oil giant Shell’s exploration plans in an offshore leasing area known as Mississippi Canyon, in the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Deep in the document, he came across the company’s internal policy for steering clear of toxic waste barrels, and what to do should their operations puncture or disturb one.
“The content, and its toxicity, of each individual barrel is not known,” the Shell document reads. “Within the area there are/could be many hundreds of waste barrels. Many of the barrels may have released their contents ove... Read more