Lebanese oil spill continues to spread

Six weeks after Israel bombed a Lebanese power plant, spilling 10,000 to 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea, the disaster continues to be disastrous. The slick has traveled an estimated 90 miles north, affecting every one of Lebanon’s approximately 200 beaches, and may reach Syria and Turkey. Lebanon’s coastline has traded in throngs of tourists for beach-cleanup volunteers; in Beirut, 18 miles from the original site of the spill, they gaze upon black sand and yellowish-green water, breathe in the scent of petroleum, and look in vain for any sign of live fish. Lebanese divers have found oil up to four inches thick on the seabed; sea turtle hatchlings at an island nature reserve will have to crawl through an oil slick to reach the water; and coastal towns with fishing- and tourism-dependent economies are struggling mightily. Ongoing conflict has delayed cleanup, which Lebanon’s Environment Ministry estimates will cost $150 million over the next year. Worst of all, there’s really nothing funny to say about any of it.