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Disappearing Oil and Gulf Seafood: Passing the Sniff Test

by BobHiggins Sun Aug 8th, 2010 at 03:13:02 PM EST

Originally posted at my site Bob Higgins

For the last several days I've watched and read a steady stream of media coverage on the miraculous disappearance of more than a hundred million gallons of oil from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank on April 20 killing 11 workers the NOAA estimates that 206 million gallons of "light sweet crude" spewed  

from BP's Macondo well field, fouling the waters of the Gulf,  shutting down much of the commerce of the surrounding region and creating a giant toxic bouillabaisse in which now swim whatever critters managed to survive poisoning, suffocation,  or being roasted alive.

The Feds now say, as reported by the NYT,
that 76% of the mess has either been picked up on the beaches, skimmed from the surface, captured by the containment process or burned off.  (I suppose breathing this stuff in the air as particulates is "perfectly safe.")

At the risk of seeming a "Chicken Little" I'd like to point out that even if the reports of this "great disappearing" are true what is left is something on the order of 50 million gallons of crud in the Gulf or about the same as 5 Exxon Valdez spills.

So, while BP, the Government and our happy-go-lucky news media are fighting for places on the "where did all the oil go" bandwagon I see no cause for celebration.

I completely understand that everyone in the area wants to look out their windows and see people thronging to the beaches and fighting for restaurant

They naturally "want their lives back," and deservedly so, but because I have long experience (due to my status as a "geezer") listening to lies from government, lies from business and lies from the media, I'm not buying it just yet.

I also know that government at all levels wants to put this disaster in the "solved" column and watch it diminish in the rear view mirror as the election approaches. The approach seems to be "if we say it is gone and no one can see it, then it must be gone." It's the "big lie" just repeat it often enough and the public will buy it, the media, after all,  will help in any way they can.

What happened to the giant underwater plumes of submerged oil that were reported late in June? Did they sink to the bottom under the influence of the mass quantities of dispersants injected into the gusher at the wellhead? Is this massive layer of sludge lying on the bottom,  stirred by currents and slowly being absorbed into the food chain? I don't know the answers but I do know that everyone stopped talking about "underwater plumes of water" weeks ago.

We are being urged to return to the beaches, frolic in the waters, build castles in the sand, eat seafood in the restaurants, get back to work at fishing and above
all... continue drilling, before our hard pressed oil companies get frustrated with our excess of caution and leave the country for friendlier climes.

The well is temporarily capped and a relief well is in the process and this beast may be stopped completely in a few weeks. BP is so encouraged by this that they
are considering reopening the well because the reservoir still contains about 4 billion dollars worth of marketable crap:

BP left open the possibility that it could  someday drill a new path into the same undersea reservoir of oil, still  believed to hold nearly $4 billion worth of crude. Chief Operating  Officer Doug Suttles said that BP hadn't considered the option yet but  that "we're going to have to think about what to do with that at some  point." St Petersburg Times

Four billion dollars worth of oil, hmm, at today's prices, $80 a barrel and at our current rate of consumption  that's nearly three days worth of oil for the thirsty old USA.  My, all this bother and trouble over three days worth of oil is beginning to make renewables look attractive.

I love seafood, nearly all of it. Living as I do in Ohio makes enjoying good seafood a rare event and given the prices this far inland, only an occasional treat. Prices for what is available since the shut down of Gulf fisheries have gone out of sight and the prospect of contamination has been real.

"If I put fish in a barrel of water and poured  oil and  Dove   detergent over that, and mixed it up, would you eat  that fish?"    asked Rusty
Graybill, an oysterman and shrimp and crab  fisherman    from Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. "I wouldn't feed it to  you   or my  family. I'm afraid someone's going to get sick."
St Petersburg Times

My confidence in the safety of what is now being prepared for shipment is not buoyed by the "information" provided in the CNN video linked here.

The ponderously named National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is testing seafood as it is brought in, they sniff it. Honest, they have "experts"
for this and they are training more "experts as fast as they can."If it doesn't smell like oil it is sent to Seattle for further testing and chemical analysis. We are flying thousands of samples to Seattle for testing, we use jet fuel for this.

I have to stop here for a second and ask, "Isn't this how we got into this awful oil dependency trap in the first place?" Why not fly in a lab or use the facilities at one of the Universities or research institutions in the Gulf area?

Beyond the oil contamination there remain the dispersant chemicals which were sprayed into the gusher with wild, wanton abandon, a practice which now looks like an attempt to create what is being celebrated as "the great disappearance."

No one yet knows much about the toxicity and dangers to the environment, the threat to wildlife and human health of these products the foremost of which was
Corexit, a compound produced by an affiliate of BP and Exxon.  (They seem to be making money on this from every direction.)

"The relative toxicity of Corexit and other dispersants are difficult to determine due to a scarcity of scientific data.According to the manufacturer's website, workers
applying Corexit should wear breathing protection and work in a ventilated area.  Compared with 12 other dispersants listed by the EPA, Corexit 9500 and  9527
are either similarly toxic or 10 to 20 times more toxic.  In another preliminary EPA study of eight different dispersants,  Corexit 9500 was found to be less toxic to some marine life than other  dispersants and to break down within weeks, rather than settling to the  bottom of the ocean or collecting in the water. None of the eight products tested are "without toxicity", according to  an EPA administrator, and the ecological effect of mixing the  dispersants with oil is unknown, as is the toxicity of the breakdown  products of the dispersant.
"  From Wikipedia

There is little information about this product because the information is "proprietary" and BP and Exxon won't release it, nor, it seems will they do the research to discover the facts about its potential dangers, or if they have done the research they aren't divulging the results because, I guess ... "its proprietary?"  The manufacturer's safety data sheet states; with simple declarative audacity:

"No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product," and later concludes "The potential human hazard is: Low.

As it stands the word from Seattle is that there are no procedures or protocols for testing the dispersants but according to NOAA official David Westerholm "tests show that, so far, "seafood reaching the marketplace is safe to eat." Gulp.

In the past when I ordered my favorite crab cakes I didn't have to choose between "Regular or Hi Test."

Bon Appetit... Urp.

Bob Higgins

Related stories:  
Responders to Gulf
oil spill wrap up defining week

Seattle's NOAA operation testing safety of Gulf fish
Scientists say dispersants haven't made Gulf more toxic
U.S. Finds Most Oil From Spill Poses Little Additional Risk
Nelson blasts BP over 'toxic brew' of oil and dispersants in gulf

The miraculous "disappearance" of the Gulf oil does seem to defy the laws of chemistry and physics.  

More likely, corexit does what it is supposed to do--make the oil invisible to eye and camera.  

And now this Monday, this article in the Bangor Maine Daily News. (Thanks, Kevin, of Cryptogon, for catching this.)  

The initial report was that Matt Simmons died of a heart attack, but already that story has been discarded.  Given that it was a drowning, and given the context of Simmons speaking out against BP statements and lies (that is, some of BP's statements, going right back to the start of the blow-out, are already known to be lies), and given that other people have already been threatened into silence by BP, the probability percentage that this is NOT murder drops into the single digits.  

Matt Simmons was best known for his accurately predictive book on the decline of Saudi oil production, "Twilight in the Desert."  More recently he was outspoken about evidence that the oil blow-out of BP's Macondo well (the "Deepwater Horizon"--actually the name of the drilling rig) was larger with more damage to the well itself, and with more extensive plumes than generally acknowledged.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Aug 9th, 2010 at 11:01:11 PM EST
Global energy expert Simmons dies at home in North Haven - Bangor Daily News
His body was found Sunday night in a hot tub at his home on the island. An autopsy by the state medical examiner's office concluded Monday that he died from accidental drowning with heart disease as a contributing factor.


He also wrote the 2005 book, "Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy," raising concerns about Saudi Arabia's oil reserves and laying out his theory that the world was approaching peak oil production.


Simmons was critical of BP PLC's handling of the gulf oil spill and predicted the company would file for bankruptcy. In one interview, he said the cleanup costs could top $1 trillion.

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 10th, 2010 at 04:40:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Simmons' latest appearance on ET was in the comments to Gaianne'scomment from TOD on the Blowout & yes it is worse . . . (June 17th, 2010)

By laying out pros and cons we risk inducing people to join the debate, and losing control of a process that only we fully understand. - Alan Greenspan
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Aug 10th, 2010 at 04:42:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Government is Dealing with the Oil Spill Like the Soviets Dealt with Chernobyl « naked capitalism
The Soviet Union was famous for covering up its environmental disasters.
But it's not just the communist Soviets...

The U.S. also has a long history of covering up environmental and health disasters, as shown by the following examples.
The government is now saying that almost all of the oil has already disappeared, and that the small amounts of remaining oil are not toxic.

Many have pointed out that it is still easy to find oil even on the surface. As National Geographic points out:

In fact, scientists are still finding plenty of spilled Gulf oil--whether it's bubbling up from under Louisiana's islands, trapped underneath Florida's sugar-white beaches, or in the ocean's unseen reaches.

This week, biological oceanographer Markus Huettel and colleague Joel Kostka dug trenches on a cleaned Pensacola beach and discovered large swaths of oil up to two feet (nearly a meter) deep.

As the Washington Post points out, scientists aren't buying the government's spin either:
But, in interviews, [government] scientists who worked on the report said the figures were based in large part on assumptions and estimates with a significant margin of error.

Indeed, because - according to the US Minerals Management Service and a consortium of oil companies, including BP, themselves - as little as 2% of the oil which spilled from BP's oil well ever made it to the surface, any formula based on surface spills is worthless.
National Geographic makes a similar point:
To University of South Florida chemical oceanographer David Hollander, the NOAA estimates are "ludicrous.""It's almost comical."

According to Hollander, the government can account for only about 25 percent of the spilled Gulf oil--the portion that's been skimmed, burned off, directly collected, and so on.

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Tue Aug 10th, 2010 at 06:15:30 AM EST
BP's Insidious Coverup and Propaganda Campaign: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Since BP announced that CEO Tony Hayward would receive a multi-million dollar golden parachute and be replaced by Bob Dudley, we have witnessed an incredibly broad, and powerful, propaganda campaign. A campaign that peaked this week with the US government, clearly acting in BP's best interests, itself announcing, via outlets willing to allow themselves to be used to transfer the propaganda, like the New York Times, this message: "The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated -- and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm."
"It is well known that after the Chernobyl accident, the Soviet government immediately did everything possible to conceal the fact of the accident and its consequences for the population and the environment: it issued "top secret" instructions to classify all data on the accident, especially as regards the health of the affected population," journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya has written.
When the disaster at Chernobyl occurred, it was only after radiation levels triggered alarms at the Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant in Sweden that the Soviet Union admitted an accident had even occurred. Even then, government authorities immediately began to attempt to conceal the scale of the disaster.

"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char
by Melanchthon on Tue Aug 10th, 2010 at 06:19:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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