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Deepwater Horizon
Six Years After the Gulf Spill


The National Wildlife Federation report says the BP oil spill damaged more than 770 sq. miles of sea floor, killed trillions of larval fish, 8.3 billion oysters (spill and disaster response) and in the five years after the disaster, more than three-quarters of pregnant bottlenose dolphins in the oiled areas failed to give birth to a viable calf.

British Petroleum (BP) is back in the news. A leak at the remote Clair platform in the North Sea forced the company to shut down oil production on the rig on Oct. 2. An estimated 700 barrels of oil (95 tons) leaked into the sea.

The latest spill is of a mere fraction of the Deepwater Horizon's April 20 to July 15, 2010 oil spill of 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) into the Gulf of Mexico near the Mississippi River Delta, 41 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. The 87-day "gusher" is the largest oil spill ever. Reports from the American Association of Petroleum Geology and the Journal of Coastal Research back in 2012 indicate the well may still be leaking.

Eleven people on the Deepwater Horizon lost their lives and were never found.

In September 2014, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that BP's "gross negligence and reckless conduct" was primarily responsible for the oil spill. Note: Transocean owned the oil platform; BP and Halliburton were under contract. In July 2015, BP agreed to pay $18.7 billion in fines.

Every year the National Wildlife Federation reports on the spill's effects on wildlife and habitats. Findings from the sixth annual report include:

A study by the National Academy of Sciences found that chemical dispersants did not accelerate oil biodegradation and may have fact suppressed it. A separate Florida State University study found dispersants eliminated 21 percent of the oil on the Gulf, but at the cost of spreading the remaining oil over a 49 percent larger area. As the toxicity of oil often increases when mixed with dispersants, it is likely that the use of dispersants exacerbated the Deepwater Horizon disaster's impacts on fish and wildlife.

The oil damaged an area more than 20 times the size of Manhattan. These deep-water impacts include damage to reefs. Scientists admit they don't know where 30 percent of the oil went.

Of the only 26 Bryde's whales that regularly inhabit the Gulf of Mexico, scientists believe that nearly a quarter of the population died as a result of the oil spill.

The Kemp's ridley, the smallest sea turtle in the world, nests almost exclusively in the Gulf. On the brink of extinction, the species was making "remarkable steps towards recovery." The oil spill killed an estimated 20 percent of the adult females.

Bird species particularly impacted include brown and white pelicans, laughing gulls, black skimmers, white ibis, double-crested cormorants, common loons and several species of terns.

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August 24, 2019, 10:41 pm PDT

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