Friday, October 12, 2012

Out Damned Spot


Oil in new Gulf slick matches that of 2010 spill. By Steven Mufson and Joel Achenbach. The Washington Post October 10, 2012 http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/oil-in-new-gulf-slick-matches-that-of-2010-spill/2012/10/10/1f2b937c-1336-11e2-be82-c3411b7680a9_story.html

[Excerpted] The oil in a slick detected in the Gulf of Mexico last month matched oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill two years ago, the Coast Guard said Wednesday night, ending one mystery and creating another.

“The exact source of the oil is unclear at this time but could be residual oil associated with the wreckage or debris left on the seabed from the Deepwater Horizon incident,” the Coast Guard said.
The presentation said that “the size and persistence of this slick, the persistent location of the oil slick origin point, the chemistry of the samples taken from the slick ... suggest that the likely source of the slick is a leak of Macondo ... oil mixed with drilling mud that had been trapped in the riser of the Deepwater Horizon rig.”

But Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University and a spill expert, cautioned said that the origin of the new oil remains uncertain. “The jury is out here,” he said, adding that it was too early “to rule out that this is oil freshly released from the reservoir.” 

....there have been persistent rumors and allegations on blogs that Macondo is not truly dead, and that it is continuing to spew oil into the gulf. 

Majia here: Below find an excerpt from an essay I wrote in Nov 2010 lamenting the silence by, and capture of, academics in the wake of the horrific BP Gulf Oil Spill

[excerpt from essay] No arena has demonstrated this disdain for critical applied analysis of the collaboration of corporate and government power than the recent “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico. I followed this environmental catastrophe closely and was authentically astonished by the brute censorship, outright lies, and calculating treatment of life exhibited by BP, federal officials, and state authorities in their “government” of this event. 

When EPA whistle-blower Hugh Kaufman raised alarm about corexit at Democracy Now, I was shocked by mainstream media’s censorship of his efforts to bring sustained public attention to the matter. Also silenced was Dr. Robert Bea, from U.C. Berkeley’s BP crisis response group, who admitted in an interview posted with Washington’s Blog that there were originally two BP wells and both might be leaking. Finally, when autopsy reports conflicted in the cause of death for the suddenly departed, whistle-blowing Matt Simmons, I began to suspect that the most outrageous conspiracy theorists of the right might contain elements of truth.

My efforts to discuss what I knew to be true, and suspected might be, at a break during a faculty retreat in August were met with contempt. Faculty moved away from me as if I had involuntarily vomited, pretending to ignore my indiscretion. One colleague reported to another that he was “worried about” me.

Academics are not supposed to emote. They are not supposed to speculate on matters outside their theoretically circumscribed program of study. Most of all, they are implicitly forbidden from discussing anything that remotely suggests that a small group of elites might exercise power and control over larger populations. Academics who lower themselves by engaging in “conspiracy” talk risk losing their academic reputations and even their jobs.

Less stigmatized, but equally vulgar, is the topic of blue-collar labor. Typically, the only academics willing to engage with the lives and challenges of LABOR as labor are those few who somehow made it through the ceiling that typically keeps working class kids from becoming professors. Those that do make it through are often implicitly encouraged to hide their base origins by pursuing more esoteric or technical programs of study. Labor is contaminating. So is the Gulf.

The Gulf crisis continues on today unabated. The ban by mainstream U.S. media has led journalists such as Dahr Jamail to seek alternative venues such as Al Jazeera to publish accounts of contaminated seafood, severely polluted water, and mortally sickened Gulf populations because similar accounts in alternative press sites such as Global Research and Florida Oil Spill News are too easily disregarded and dismissed as conspiratorial (see http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2010/11/201011465847225269.html). 

Academics, mostly marine biologists and toxicologists, who have bravely leaked their research to local media willing to report evidence of vast amounts of oil, both newly deposited and buried, risk losing future grant money and harming the academic reputation of their universities. Faculty from the University of Georgia and South Florida are to be applauded for their courage in the face of this potential backlash.

Perhaps this censorship is tolerated because the populations most directly impacted by the disaster are working class people whose livelihoods are tied to the oil and fishing industries. These people speak with strong southern accents, wear rough tee-shirts, and are “red.” Their rage against BP and the government has been spurred by an overwhelming assault against their livelihoods and their health. Although some left leaning journalists and environmental activists have engaged with them in their struggle to have the scope and ongoing dimensions of the disaster recognized, addressed, discussed, the academic left has been largely silent and stories about the ongoing catastrophe are slowly disappearing from progressive news sites such as Alternet, Truthout, and OpEdnews. 

I include a long excerpt from one of the few stories published recently on the ongoing disaster to demonstrate my point about the media moving on and the unheralded efforts of a few dedicated individuals to document the scope and effects of the spill:

block quote: BP's stock has already bounced back. The media has mostly moved on. But the long-term health impacts on Gulf Coast residents from the catastrophic oil spill are only beginning…

Originally collected on four separate dates throughout August, all the blood samples -- from three females, age 44, 46 and 51, and five males, age 30, 46, 48, 51 and 59 -- contained dangerously high levels of volatile organic chemicals found in BP crude oil, including Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and Hexane, Subra explained during a wide-ranging interview with Alternet. 

She clarified that the subjects whose blood was analyzed had been exposed to the oil for at least three full months before samples were collected on August 2, 3, 12 and 18. 

Testing for the same chemical markers, Subra hunted down BP's crude fingerprints out in the field all along the coast, in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida's panhandle.

"I've found there's still huge amounts of BP crude oil on the sediment soils, in the wetlands, on the vegetation, and in the tissue in the oysters, crabs and mussels." The acute health impacts of these chemicals include severe headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, burning eyes and throat, earache and chest pains. 

Subra, who is also a microbiologist and the recipient of a 1999 MacArthur Fellows "genius grant" for her environmental work, pointed out that coastal residents have already entered an early phase of long-term exposure, where they're experiencing chronic effects such as liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, decreased lung function and heart disease. (Jacobson, 2010, http://www.alternet.org/environment/148737/bp_stock_rebounds_media_moves_on_but_gulf_residents_are_bracing_for_a_mammoth_health_crisis_from_the_spill) end block quote

Subra is a brave soul for her willingness to document and attest to the ongoing environmental and health impacts of this “spill” will probably mean she will never receive another prestigious academic award.

REFERENCES

Jacobson, B. (2010, November). BP Stock Rebounds, Media Moves on, But Gulf Residents Are Bracing for a Mammoth Health Crisis from the Spill. Alternet. http://www.alternet.org/environment/148737/bp_stock_rebounds_media_moves_on_but_gulf_residents_are_bracing_for_a_mammoth_health_crisis_from_the_spill) 

Jamail, D. (2010, November 5). Is the gulf of mexico safe ? http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2010/11/201011465847225269.html

Kaufman, H. (2010). EPA Whistleblower Accuses Agency of Covering Up Effects of Dispersant in BP Oil Spill Cleanup. Democracy Now. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/20/epa_whistleblower_accuses_agency_of_covering

Rosen, D. (2010, October 29-31). Class war in America: The war that dares not speak its name. Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/rosen10292010.html)

Washington’s Blog. (2010, August 19). Top Expert: Geology is "Fractured", Relief Wells May Fail ... BP is Using a "Cloak of Silence", Refusing to Share Even Basic Data with the Government. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2010/08/top-oil-expert-geology-is-fractured-bp.html

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