Tar balls, dead marine life raise more questions about oil in the gulf

By | 09.14.11 | 3:58 pm

A concentrated oil burn in the Gulf of Mexico, conducted in May 2010 (Pic by Deepwater Horizon Response, via Flickr)

Though BP has continued to deny that any of its gulf wells are leaking oil, a large-scale oil slick reported in the area is worrying Gulf Coast watchdogs. Concerns abound that the oil could spell trouble for area fisheries, especially since reports of dead dolphins have persisted in recent days.

Since Tropical Storm Lee recently made landfall in the Gulf Coast region, tar balls have started washing up on the shores of Louisiana all the way to Florida. Dramatic videos published last week on the site Black Oil, Red Blood shows that oil is indeed still a problem. Whether that is the result of a new leak or a remnant of last year’s Deepwater Horizon spill remains a mystery. (Photos of a dolphin skeleton that washed up in Biloxi, Miss., are also shown.)

According to the site, these images were taken “during the past few weeks and months, at a time when BP has engaged in an aggressive, multi-million dollar advertising campaign which proclaims to the country that Gulf beaches are clean, safe, and open for business.”

BP has sent cleanup crews to gather many of the washed-up tarballs, and reports indicate the oil is merely the remains of last year’s disaster and not indicative of a new spill. (Aerial video taken in August reveals what many say is a new slick, but BP has stated that there is no new leak.) According to The Miami Herald, the erosion brought on by Tropical Storm Lee also uncovered “PVC pipes used to secure boom and snares used to absorb oil.”

As recently as April 2011 (a year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster), several dead dolphins, covered in oil, were found along the Gulf Coast. At that time, there had been at least 153 dolphin deaths in recent months, 65 of them newly born or stillborn calves, according to NOAA officials. There is no word on the number of dolphin deaths due to the most recent slick of oil.

Earlier today, a federal panel found that BP was at fault for 21 of the 35 factors that lead to last year’s spill, the largest in the history of the country.

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