Gulf Oil Spill: Dispersal Chemicals Threaten Ocean/Wetlands Ecology

By now, most everyone knows about the unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and that it landed in New Orleans last Friday morning.  Already, animal rescue groups are on the scene — much faster than Federal responses.  But what IS the Federal response?  Their first actual step was to put down some 600,000 feet of floating barrier, in attempts to contain the oil, slow it’s reaching land, while they sprayed “dispersal” chemicals on the oily surface of the Gulf.   Now they’re talking about releasing another kind of dispersal chemical underwater — one that would somehow stop the oil from rising to the surface in the first place.  Before any chemicals were sprayed or introduced, some long, hard looks at their impact are in order.

If it’s a solvent, obviously that’s a No.  If it’s a bacterial agent designed to eat the oil, that too has real concerns.  No matter what it is, it’s certain to have an impact.  There is no such thing as a free lunch, and the chemicals/agents themselves are a foreign and harmful substance.  If it’s biological, it will still upset the balances.  What to do, then?

The solution involves skim-vacuuming the surface water of the Gulf.  (A better solution would have been to do this at the first sign of a leak from that platform, while it could still be contained and before it ever got those 50 miles in to land.)  5,000 barrels is a lot of oil each day.  A tanker will need to be on hand to receive all that skimmed oil.  But yes, that’s a far better idea than waiting for it to hit the coast.  Without intervention, it was a foregone conclusion that it WOULD hit the coast, so what have we been waiting for?

It should go without saying that this has demonstrated that offshore oil drilling is not safe and should not be expanded.  Plans should be devised and put in place to contain any such spills in the future, for other rigs still in existence.   Meanwhile, we’ve got a lot of vacuuming to do… and the ONLY way to get it done is to get started!

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