Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: The ‘Spilling Effect’ Persists
One might assume that the adverse effects of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill are long gone. It only makes sense to believe that the damages caused by an oil spill two years ago are bound to fade. However, this is far from the truth, the spill caused extensive damage to marine life, wild habitats, Gulf’s fishing industry, tourism and on the economy as a whole of the Gulf region. The explosion on the rig on 20th April 2010 released more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. It took the lives of 11 people who were working on the rig, coupled with injuring 16 others. The oil spilled unabated for three months straight. Some engineers and marine biologists claim that even though the oil might not be visible now, it is still present in the Gulf waters and its detrimental effects are far from over. This insurmountable crisis reached its peak in June 2010, when a total of 88,522 square miles – which makes 37% of Gulf waters – was closed for fishing due to the severe contamination caused by the spill.
At the time when it happened, various means were used to contain the oil – skimmer ships, anchored barriers, floating containments, sand-filled barricades alongside the shoreline and dispersants were used to guard the beaches, wetlands and estuaries from the spreading oil. The main strategies used to address the oil spill were: first, to contain it on the surface, second, to dilute and finally, to disperse it into less sensitive areas. Unfortunately these measures fell short as the spread of the oil spill was quite extensive. Moreover, the damage was incalculable as the precise impact will depend on a countless interlinked variables such as the weather, ocean currents, the properties of the oil involved and also the consequences of the efforts to stop the flow and rectifying its effects. The contaminated area of the gulf continues to spread.
In September 2011, a report was issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, concluding that the main cause of the explosion was the faulty cement drilling barrier located at the Macondo well site. Though the report states that the actual reasons for the malfunction of the production casing cement job are not fully established but it can be said that the disaster occurred because of poor risk management, eleventh-hour changes made in plans, failure to monitor and to be responsive to critical indicators, insufficient well control response, and inadequate emergency bridge response training by individuals and also the companies that were responsible for drilling at the site.
To our surprise, it’s been said that the Gulf of Mexico is not exactly an environment-friendly region even prior to the oil spill. Engineers claim that thousands of gallons of oil flows into the gulf from natural undersea well which seeps every day. Also, scores of refineries and chemical plants along the shore from Mexico to Mississippi pour insurmountable volumes of pollutants into the water. The Gulf oil spill, therefore, is like the final nail to the coffin.
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation of the Gulf, a few promising recent developments have been heartening to see. For instance, the arrest this month of a BP engineer, Kurt Mix, for destroying evidence of the oil spill seems like a good sign. The engineer is alleged to have deleted hundreds of text messages about the rate at which the oil was spilling from the Macondo well. Mr. Fix faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. It is good to know that BP is being held accountable for this catastrophic failure. They have been charged with civil and criminal fines which would equal the total amount of oil spilled. The estimated figure lurking around is about 4.9 million barrels. Those at fault are being put to justice or so we hope.