Saturday, April 2, 2011

BP Oil Update by Your Emerald COASTKEEPER

Emerald Coastkeeper
April 1, 2011

Proud member of the Waterkeeper Alliance

In the past couple weeks I have attended 3 meetings related to response and recovery from the BP oil discharge. Below is a summary of what was discovered at each meeting.

The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) meeting with Natural Resource Damages Assessment (NRDA) Trustees: Florida Trustees are in the process of assessing the ecological damage incurred from oil. Water, soil and tissue samples continue to be collected and will be compared to baseline sampling which occurred before the discharge. Things being assessed: water column, fishery resources, seagrasses, subtidal offshore environments, shoreline habitats, wetlands, birds, marine mammals, other terrestrial wildlife and human uses. Some examples of restoration given at the meeting include: creation of habitat, sand replacement, law enforcement to protect endangered species, boat ramps/piers and acquiring property. There are 4 steps which must be defined and supported in order to call something an injury: release of harmful substance (proven), pathway that substance took (partly known), exposure to that substance (in the process of analyzing) and finally a quantifiable injury (to be determined).

Remember, NRDA is a legal process set up in the Oil Pollution Act 1990. It is a lengthy process and due to the legal nature, data and chain of custody information is much slower to be released to the public than under other circumstances. This has unfortunately added to many questions folks have about the safety of our beaches and seafood; which is a perfect segue to the next meeting.
BP and response agencies held a town hall meeting to discuss the current situation in northwest Florida. First the good news: response agencies and UWF/CEDB have restarted their weekly water and sediment sampling at northwest Florida beaches and so far continue to get non-detect values for hydrocarbons, PAHs and dispersant. What this means is that even though oil product continues to wash up on our beaches as a tar like substance we have yet to see any data which shows that this oil product is dissolving into the water column.  This has led to the health department issuing statements that our beaches are safe and clean.

The not so good news: There are at least a dozen areas in northwest Florida where offshore tar mats exist. As long as these tar mats exist we will continue to see oil product washing ashore on our beaches. Now, according to currently released data, as long as you physically avoid the oil/tar you should not be at risk of accumulating the toxins which exist in it. However, a very disturbing quote from response agencies at this community meeting: “the technology to remove these offshore mats in a safeway does not exist and therefore the benefit for removing these tar mats does not outweigh the risk involved”.  Now I will be the last one to insist that that worker safety be ignored in order to remove all of the oil impacting the Gulf, however, there are 3 serious problems I see with this statement:

1.       All northwest Florida counties are pushing hard for beach renourishment to be the first and foremost project for restoration in Florida and insisting that this should happen sooner than later. However, we have no idea where most of the offshore oil is (recall at least ¾ of the oil discharged last summer has yet to be accounted for), and even if we do diligent studies to find a proven clean supply of sand, where is the logic in bringing that sand onshore while we are still having oil impacts every time a storm passes? Don’t get me wrong, BP should be forced to replace the sand we are having to remove due to it being soiled with oil; however this should not be done until we stop seeing tar washing ashore.
2.       How is it possible that response agencies can go to Washington touting the response to the BP discharge (using dispersant to sink the oil) as highly successful and pushing for the same response in future events and at the same time they are in our communities telling us that there is no safe way to remove sunken oil which continues to wash ashore.
3.       Aquatic species cannot be warned to avoid the oil, they are definitely at risk of accumulating the toxins found in the dispersed, sunken oil. In addition, many locals eat much more seafood than the national average, and FDA has yet to address this fact in their assessment of seafood safety.

Finally, last night I attended a meeting with the Ecosystem Restoration Task Force in Mobile. The objective of the task force is different than that of NRDA Trustees. The Trustees are charged with defining the damage/injuries incurred from the BP discharge and creating a restoration plan to address those injuries. The Task Force is charged with defining a broad, Gulf of Mexico wide restoration plan. The Gulf has suffered from declining health of coastal ecosystems, water quality and fisheries for decades, yet has received very little attention and funding to address these issues (especially compared to other regions of the US, like the great lakes for example). The executive order which created this task force was very clear in the charge for local input and involvement in a Gulf wide restoration plan. This plan is due to the Obama administration on October 5, 2011. The Task Force is holding meeting throughout the Gulf to get input on priorities for restoration and to define what the impediments are which have kept this restoration from happening sooner. If you have input into restoration priorities that you would like for me to address at these meetings let me know. Otherwise I will continue to push for creation of oyster/seagrass habitats and stormwater improvements as top priorities for restoration in the Gulf region.

As always if you would like to get involved we look forward to hearing from you. We are still monitoring shoreline areas for oil and could use mroe volunteers to help with that effort. We are also waiting for results from our second round of oyster sampling.

Chasidy Fisher Hobbs
Emerald Coastkeeper

1 comment:

  1. My grandson, an avid skimmer and surfer and generally fearless 12 year old, told me he and his friends found a ''dinasaur egg'' that they poked with their boards. I told him it was this oil thing. Just like telling another Reporter of the Truth last year, it seems to fall on deaf ears: don't touch this stuff. This oil gets into our bodies and stays forever, causing calamities and the erosion of our health. We may all be moving, for all we know. Where will we go, what will we do. Hundreds of thousands of lives changed. Our world is changing. Look at Japan. In less than 6 minutes I saw a video of the tsunami taking out an entire town, rearranging it forever. We must stay strong, but its the strength of faith kind of strong. We are being tested. What is important? Lifestyle? Family? Material things? Money? We know what is important. Its our faith in Jesus Christ. We are born with this knowledge of God, of right, and of wrong. But its only through Jesus Christ that there is salvation. We need to know that, so we can live through these times and do the things we need to do to survive, to help our neighbors, to be the remnant that does things in respect to human beings and the environment. We are learning a very hard lesson now. I believe we are capable of change and learning.


Please keep comments free of vulgarity. Your message will be deleted if not.
This thing is vulgar by it's self.