Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sunday May 9 BP Oil Update: Tarballs On Dauphin Island

1. Tarballs on the beach.

Multiple news sources report that "dime- to- golfball sized balls of tar began washing up" yesterday on Dauphin Island, Alabama. The island lies about 50 miles west of Pensacola Beach, as any surviving crows might fly.
Dauphin Island officials said tarballs began washing up around noon. By 8 p.m., officials responding to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill released a press release announcing that samples from the island had been sent to a lab for analysis.
Alabama reporters --
found what were best described as tar patties spread over several miles of beachfront. They were flat and irregularly shaped. Some appeared to have been worn smooth after tumbling in the surf, while the smaller pieces had jagged edges, as if they had broken off from larger hunks.
"Dozens of men" were dispatched to the island to collect samples, all wearing what sounds very much like hazmat suits -- "white protective suits, yellow boots and black gloves."

2. Pensacola Beach Forecast.

Through Tuesday, prevailing wind and current forecasts should be reasonably favorable for Pensacola Beach. NOAA's oil slick weather forecast map calls for northeast to east winds through Tuesday, with seas ranging variously from 2 to six feet.

That's good news for Pensacola Beach; bad news for beaches and estuaries north and west of BP's Deepwater Horizon well:
The Mississippi Delta, Breton Sound, the Chandeleur Islands and areas directly north have a potential for shoreline contacts throughout the forecast period. West of the Mississippi Delta, the shoreline between Timbalier Bay and Barataria Bay is threatened on Monday. With continued winds from the E, potential oil contacts could reach as far west as Pt Au Fer Island by Wednesday.
3. Statewide Worries.

Worries over what will happen to Florida's sugar white sands aren't confined to the Northwest Panhandle. Florida Today reports officials and businesses are worried all up and down the Florida peninsula -- those with Atlantic-side beaches as well as Gulfside. Partly, the concerns arise from fears the Florida Loop may transport the oily trash all the way around the state, like that message in a bottle we mentioned; partly, they arise from tourist business concerns that most international tourists don't know one end of Florida from the other.

Sympathy for the tourist industry aside, the over-arching concern continues to be what the British Petroleum river of oil is doing to the entire chain of sea life:
Some scientists suggest a bigger concern may be Florida Bay and the Everglades, where oil could harm wildlife at the base of the food web.

"It could remain resident in there for years," said James Fourqurean, a seagrass ecologist with Florida International University.

Seagrass can survive oil. Small creatures that live in the grass beds can't. "The oil is very, very toxic to the animals, not to the plants," Fourqurean said.

Jerome Lorenz, an ecologist with Audubon of Florida, worries about oil settling out in mangrove swamps, threatening wading birds. Plovers, pelicans and terns are nesting now.

"These ecosystems are terribly important as feeding systems for a variety of tropical birds," Lorenz said. "Once it's in there, it really can't be cleaned back out."
4. Contextual Reporting.

The New York Times today is running a backgrounder with graphics that provide a useful summary of the importance of the Gulf of Mexico to the nation's food, wildlife, and energy supply. ["The Gulf Before the Spill"].
It provides up to one-third of the country’s commercial fishing and shellfish — along with 27 percent of its domestically produced oil and 20 percent of domestic natural gas.
5. Air Quality.
EPA continues to rank Pensacola Beach air quality as "good." The federal agency began publishing a special Oil Spill Area analysis of "fine particulate matter" and ozone levels this week.

After Friday's scare, there have been no new reports of bad oily smells on the beach.

7. Contact Numbers.

William at North lists local phone numbers of interest:
  • Volunteer hotline: 1-866-448-5816
  • Transocean hotline: 832-587-8554
  • MI Swaco hotline: 888-318-6765
  • BP Investor Relations: 381-366-3123
  • BP family hotline: 281-366-5578
  • BP third party contractor hotline: 281-366-5578
6. The Price of Oil Pollution.

Reuters News is reporting that BP has been spending "as much as $10 million a day on clean-up efforts." That's considerably higher than the $6 to $7 million daily which the Christian Science Monitor was estimating just a week ago.

Add to that presently-unknown costs to the federal government of the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, EPA, federal fish and wildlife response, national guard and state reserve forces called into action, and who knows how many others? The total price tag for BP, the U.S., and state governments -- never mind the losses certain to afflict individual business -- inevitably will escalate to unimaginable heights as the oil washes ashore.

No one can calculate the likely total cost of the oil spill until the under-water gusher is finally stoppered. Yesterday's failure of the containment dome only postpones the day when a final price tag can be figured out.

For some reason all of this reminds us of the Illinois wind farm we saw just a few weeks ago. The total system cost $200 million. That's the equivalent of just 20 days of BP oil spill costs.

In other words, BP could have built an entire wind farm for what it's spent just since the Deepwater Horizon well blew up. How many more might we have built by today, if only we had listened to the Voice of Prophecy?
minor edit 5-9 am

1 comment: said...

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