Gulf oil wells have been leaking since 2004 hurricane
Oil has been gushing from a group of wells south of New Orleans since a platform at the site was wiped out by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and it appears that nothing is being done to staunch or control the leaking.
Efforts to cap the ruptures seem to have been abandoned in 2011. Instead of working to clean up or stop the spill, driller Taylor Energy Company is now providing the government with daily updates about the resultant slick.
Even those updates appear to be half-baked. A long ribbon of oil can clearly be seen spilling out from the site, but Taylor Energy claims it’s much smaller than does NOAA.
On June 1, NOAA reported to the Coast Guard that the slick was 20.2 miles long and a mile wide.
Even if the lower estimate were correct, it should be bad enough to set off alarm bells somewhere in the federal government. But this is the environmentally battered Gulf of Mexico, where petrochemical accidents are an everyday occurrence.
From a post by SkyTruth, a group that uses remote sensing and digital mapping technology to push for environmentalist protection:
NOAA’s slick is more than 80 times bigger than what Taylor reported. And if we assume the slick is, on average, only 1/1000th of a millimeter (1 micron) thick, that amounts to at least 13,800 gallons of oil on the water. Yet the federal government has publicly stated that the leaking wells cumulatively spill only about 14 gallons per day.
From a recent post by On Wings of Care, a nonprofit that flies over sites damaged by the Gulf’s petrochemical industry and publishes photographs of what it sees (like the one above):
As a result of what we showed them about the Taylor Energy slick, the USCG [U.S. Coast Guard] put together a group to work on our information and planned a flight out there themselves …
Why are we so motivated to keep trying to show the public and the USCG the true extent of the pollution out in the Gulf, particularly at this chronic Taylor site? Primarily because ever since we began flying and reporting on the Taylor pollution about two years ago (as regularly as we could afford to do), someone has been filing daily NRC [National Response Center] reports on this site, claiming to be from aircraft sightings, claiming that the pollution amounts to a volume of little more than a few gallons of oil. This is an outrageously innacurate underestimate. All of our videos and photos and our own NRC reports defy such statements, but to date, the USCG, the EPA, and other government enforcement agencies have not acted so as to effect the undertaking of repair or remediation. So the leakage has continued.
A bitter note to end on: The reports filed with the Coast Guard on the spill, both from NOAA and Taylor Energy, contain the following:
Environmental Impact: UNKNOWN
Media Interest: NONE
Get Grist in your inbox