|BP Oil Spill Update 7/8/2010
claims US Coast Guard involved in Corexit spraying;
BP Police State; More Gulf Links
CONTENTS THIS EMAIL:
1. In Trying To Cover It's Own Behind, BP Has Lowballed the Amount of
Oil ... Which Has Made Everything Worse
1.1 On CNN, Newsweek Contributing Editor, JULIA REED, says that the
pathetic Gulf cleanup seems “willful” now
2. British Petroleum Police State (Natural News)
3. Local Official: Subpoenas issued over dumping of BP’s “Hazardous
Waste” from oil disaster
4. CNN: Over 1,500 oil cleanup workers sickened says BP’s lead doctor
in Gulf (VIDEO)
5. BP immediately hiring 300 oil cleanup workers in Florida Keys
6. Tar balls wash up on Florida’s East Coast for second day in a row;
Chamber of Commerce scrambles to control damage (VIDEO)
7. Tar balls “all over the beach” on Florida’s East Coast; “I can’t
believe how big they’re coming in”
8. CNN: 128 BP oil cleanup workers sickened in Louisiana; Told not to
go to public hospitals (VIDEO)
9. CNN: Valdez worker: They “poisoned” me, “I’m going blind” (VIDEO)
10. Feds: Drinking a cup of CRUDE OIL “unlikely to have long-lasting
11. BP Naples Claims Center still has unlisted phone; “Tucked away” in
strip mall, “small white sign stuck in the grass” not visible from
12. Marine biologist claims US Coast Guard involved in Corexit
spraying (Raw Story) FULL TEXT IN THIS EMAIL
13. Oil Seeps Into New Orleans' Lake Pontchartrain
14. BP wasted no time preparing for oil spill lawsuits
15. SALON.COM: The BP/Government police state: FULL TEXT IN THIS EMAIL
16. BP & Coast Guard bans all media access to spill, boom, cleanup
sites and workers (sfgate.com)
17. Pentagon OKs up to 17,500 Guardsmen for Gulf oil spill cleanup:
18. VIDEO: BP and Military on Panama City Beach July 4 2010
19. The Relief Wells Are Ahead of Schedule … But Will They Work?
20. Protecting Oil Companies? BP Investigation Blocked: VIDEO OF US
SENATE ‘DEBATE’ HERE:
21. Uniformed Cops On BP Payroll? Enter The ACLU (Mother Jones)
22. The Big Lie: BP, Governments Downplay Public Health Risk From Oil
and Dispersants FULL TEXT IN THIS EMAIL
See End of Email for:
Rikki Ott’s “The Big Lie: BP, Governments Downplay Public Health Risk
From Oil and Dispersants”
In Trying To Cover It's Own Behind, BP Has Lowballed the Amount of Oil
... Which Has Made Everything Worse
On CNN AC360, 7/6/2010:
Newsweek Contributing Editor, JULIA REED, says that the pathetic Gulf
cleanup seems “willful” now:
YOUNG: But it's not that hard. There's a disconnect. There's a very
big disconnect here.
REED: But the disconnect, to your point, it seems willful now. I mean, it
YOUNG: Well, we're certainly -- we're certainly not benefiting. And,
again, this is not just a Louisiana problem. This is a national
REED: But, I mean, finally, a couple of weeks ago, members of his own
party, Barbara Boxer and Bill Nelson, who has a lot of stake at this
since he is a Senator from Florida, asked the President just to send
in a Naval command to take control of it. No response, not even to
members of his own party.
GUPTA: Right. Right.
REED: So, right, I mean, I don't know who it benefits, but it does it
seem willful, or at least incomprehensible.
British Petroleum Police State:
Remember our recent article about the First Amendment being suspended
in the Gulf Coast? Well now it's even worse: BP is now paying the
salaries of local police officers who, together with BP private
security goons, are threatening and intimidating journalists who try
to take pictures from public roadways.
Local Official: Subpoenas issued over dumping of BP’s “Hazardous
Waste” from oil disaster
Despite objections, cleanup waste moves to Pecan Grove landfill
WLOX Channel 13 ABC BIloxi, July 7, 2010:
http://www.floridaoilspilllaw.com/ for multiple links
pertaining to Florida, and additional tar balls washing ashore in
multiple locations, including East Coast. Some recent links compiled
CNN: Over 1,500 oil cleanup workers sickened says BP’s lead doctor in
1,500+ sick only counts workers who sought care through BP; Area
hospital visits NOT included
AC 360, CNN, July 7, 2010:
Dr. Sanjay Gupta:
Today Dr. Kevin O’Shea — he’s the physician in charge of BP’s medical
response in Gulf — he told me that in the four states affected by the
spill, more than 1,500 cleanup workers . . .
BP immediately hiring 300 oil cleanup workers in Florida Keys; Must be
ready to report for duty within 12 to 18 hours
Tar balls wash up on Florida’s East Coast for second day in a row;
Chamber of Commerce scrambles to control damage (VIDEO)
Tar balls “all over the beach” on Florida’s East Coast; “I can’t
believe how big they’re coming in”
CNN: 128 BP oil cleanup workers sickened in Louisiana; Told not to go
to public hospitals (VIDEO)
Sanjay Gupta, CNN, July 6, 2010:
Might BP be trying to hide the risk to cleanup workers? …
Valdez worker: They “poisoned” me, “I’m going blind” (VIDEO)
Sanjay Gupta, CNN, July 6, 2010
10 10 10 10 10
Feds: Drinking a cup of CRUDE OIL “unlikely to have long-lasting health
Clean-up workers risk health problems from oil spill, Reuters, June 22,
BP Claims Center still has unlisted phone; “Tucked away” in strip
mall, “small white sign stuck in the grass” not visible from street
For BP, buck stops in Naples, Ft. Myers News Press, July 6, 2010
Marine biologist claims US Coast Guard involved in Corexit spraying
The Coast Guard has banned reporters from getting near oil spill sites
: a move that's been called an assault on the First Amendment. If
indeed the guard is actively assisting BP in violating the EPA's order
to significantly reduce Corexit output -- and if they've begun taking
up night-time spraying missions on the company's behalf, as Dr.
Pincetich claims -- then their reasons for shutting out the media
become much easier to assume.
Stephen C. Webster
July 6, 2010
A marine biologist working with a group of environmentalists to save
sea turtles claims the U.S. Coast Guard is involved in spraying a
toxic chemical dispersant over the Gulf of Mexico; and he says it has
already traveled inland.
“Do I think there’s dispersants coming in and mixing with our everyday
lives?” Dr. Chris Pincetich asked, speaking with a group of activists.
“Absolutely,” he pronounced.
Pincetich, a marine biologist and toxicologist who works with the Sea
Turtle Restoration Project , was speaking to a group of activists who
call themselves Project Gulf Impact
Video of the interview quickly made its way to the Internet, where it
has sparked renewed concern about the oil dispersant substance
Corexit, being sprayed over the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the
worst environmental accident in human history. Up until last week that
dubious distinction was held by the Ixtoc underwater well disaster in
BP, the oil company responsible for a broken deep-water well that has
been gushing oil and gas unabated since April 22, has been dumping
massive amounts of the chemical stock ever since the disaster began as
a way of keeping the oil off the water’s surface. Thinned by
dispersant, the oil mixes with the water column and forms underwater
plumes that are less likely to wash ashore or be measured by satellite
After initially approving Corexit, the U.S Environmental Protection
Agency retracted its allowance and ordered BP to stop dumping the
chemical substance by Sunday, May 23. BP ignored the order, as it had
purchased more than a third of the world’s supply of Corexit. Nalco
Co., formed in-part by a longtime member of BP’s board of directors ,
is in process of mass producing more in Sugarland, Texas.
The EPA followed up on May 26 by ordering BP to reduce the volume of
Corexit output by 75 percent. Again, BP did not comply, according to
“Before May 26, BP used 25,689 gallons a day of the chemical
dispersant Corexit,” the network reported on July 2 . “Since then,
CNN’s analysis shows, the daily average of dispersant use has dropped
to 23,250 gallons a day, a 9 percent decline.”
The EPA’s Web site claims the agency and the Coast Guard are tightly
monitoring BP’s use of Corexit ; it does not say that the Coast Guard
is actively participating in the deployment thereof.
“The Federal Government reserves the right to discontinue the use of
this dispersant method if negative impacts on the environment outweigh
the benefits, and the Coast Guard’s Federal On-Scene Coordinator has
the authority to make daily decisions regarding any request by BP to
adjust the use of dispersant,” the agency declared, even after its own
orders were so obviously ignored.
“The exact makeup of [Corexit] is kept secret under competitive trade
laws, but a worker safety sheet for one product, called Corexit, says
it includes 2-butoxyethanol, a compound associated with headaches,
vomiting and reproductive problems at high doses,” Pro Publica noted
However, Fast Company magazine added : “in a statement to the Gulf
Oil Disaster Recovery Group, toxicology expert Dr. William Sawyer
elaborated on the risks associated with Corexit. According to Sawyer,
Corexit is also known as deodorized kerosene–a substance with health
risks to humans as well as sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles,
birds, and any species that need to surface for air exchanges.”
Breathing dispersant fumes is what’s thought to have sickened and
number of spill response workers. Crew members aboard three separate
vessels “reported experiencing nausea, dizziness, headaches and chest
pains,” according to the Coast Guard . Instead of ensuring workers had
adequate access to respirators, BP CEO Tony Hayward claimed workers
had fallen ill from food poisoning . Fishermen who’ve since joined the
cleanup effort have been discouraged from wearing proper breathing
equipment, allegedly because BP wants to stem the tide of “hysteria”
over the disaster.
The chairman of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Advisory
Council called Corexit “worse than oil.” However, at the end of June
the EPA concluded a round of testing on the substance and declared
Corexit to be “slightly toxic,” but actually not worse than oil.
The New York Times reported :
Lab workers determined what concentration of dispersant was needed to
kill half the fish or half the shrimp in the sample, measured in parts
per million, and then classified the products in rather broad
categories. Corexit, which becomes lethal to half the shrimp or fish
at 130 parts per million, was labeled “practically nontoxic,” and
dispersants that killed half the shrimp or fish in concentrations
between 19 and 55 parts per million were labeled “slightly toxic.” The
worst-ranking, Dispersit SPC 1000, killed half the aquatic life at 2.9
parts per million and was classed as “moderately toxic.’’
To the contrary, Yobie Benjamin with the San Francisco Chronicle wrote :
Corexit 9500 is a solvent originally developed by Exxon and now
manufactured by the Nalco of Naperville, Illinois (who by the way just
hired some expensive lobbyists ). Corexit is is four times more toxic
than oil (oil is toxic at 11 ppm (parts per million), Corexit 9500 at
In a report written by Anita George-Ares and James R. Clark for Exxon
Biomedical Sciences, Inc. titled “Acute Aquatic Toxicity of Three
Corexit Products: An Overview” Corexit 9500 was found to be one of the
most toxic dispersal agents ever developed.
The substance is thought to become even more toxic when mixed with
salty, oily water at high temperatures, such as those found on the
Gulf’s surface in the middle of summer.
Likewise, Dr. Pincetich argued that his background in toxicology and
testing pesticides on marine life gives him a unique perspective on
the EPA’s measurement process.
“People need to realize that their water, their air, the sand they’re
walking on, the things they’re touching when they wake up in the
morning — are coated with this stuff,” he said. “If you see it in a
high concentration, it looks like radiator fluid. It is not a pretty
sight. The stuff is toxic. The tests say ‘no effect’. I can tell you
from managing those tests as a professional that you need to know
exactly what test gave you what effect that you tested. So, if it was
no effect on the survival of seven days of the fish, what happened to
that fish at 10 days? That was my doctoral thesis.”
He continued: “The pesticides that killed no fish at 96 hours, which
is the EPA deadline — 90 percent of them died two weeks later. These
were embryonic salmon. There are a lot of chemical effects that are
not being measured by the standard EPA tests.”
Pincetich specifically cautioned that no matter how carefully Corexit
is sprayed, the chemicals will always drift inland, or simply
evaporate and return in condensation.
“[Corexit] basically disrupts the natural ability of oil to bond with
itself,” he said. “Oil bilipid layers next to each other are the very
basis of life. Each of us is made out of cells. Those cells are
nothing more than an oil layer surrounding our proteins and RNA and
all the other molecules talking to each other. You put in a chemical
that disrupts that basic biological structure and you are putting
yourself at risk from umpteen effects.”
The Coast Guard has banned reporters from getting near oil spill sites
: a move that’s been called an assault on the First Amendment. If
indeed the guard is actively assisting BP in violating the EPA’s order
to significantly reduce Corexit output — and if they’ve begun taking
up night-time spraying missions on the company’s behalf, as Dr.
Pincetich claims — then their reasons for shutting out the media
become much easier to assume.
Dreadful as it sounds, the scenario would seem to lead reasonable
observers in wondering why a foreign corporation is directing a branch
of America’s military.
Salon writer Glenn Greenwald opined similarly in a recent slight [
] to what he called the “BP/Government police state,” saying: “The
very idea that government officials are acting as agents of BP (of all
companies) in what clearly seem to be unconstitutional acts to
intimidate and impede the media is infuriating. Obviously, the U.S.
Government and BP share the same interest — preventing the public from
knowing the magnitude of the spill and the inadequacy of the clean-up
efforts — but this creepy police state behavior is intolerable.”
This video was published to YouTube by Project Gulf Impact on July 4, 2010.
[VIDEO LINK HERE]
Updated with information on Nalco, Co. and the Ixtoc oil disaster.
Correction: Nalco, Co. released a list of Corexit’s chemical
components in May, after intense public pressure over its use in the
Gulf. The list had been a closely-held corporate secret up until that
point. The company still has yet to publicly disclose the
concentrations of each ingredient, but has allegedly shared this
information with the EPA.
Oil Seeps Into New Orleans' Lake Pontchartrain
Two months into the crisis, oil seeps into New Orleans' Lake
Pontchartrain, worrying fishermen
New Orleans, which managed to escape the oil from the BP spill for
more than two months, can't hide any longer.
...For the first time since the accident, oil from the ruptured well
is seeping into Lake Pontchartrain, threatening another environmental
disaster for the huge body of water that was rescued from pollution in
1990s to become, once more, a bountiful fishing ground and a popular
spot for boating and swimming.
BP wasted no time preparing for oil spill lawsuits
By Marc Caputo | McClatchy Newspapers
TALLAHASSEE — In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon
disaster, BP publicly touted its expert oil clean-up response, but it
quietly girded for a legal fight that could soon embroil hundreds of
attorneys, span five states and last more than a decade.
BP swiftly signed up experts who otherwise would work for plaintiffs.
It shopped for top-notch legal teams. It presented volunteers,
fishermen and potential workers with waivers, hoping they would sign
away some of their right to sue.
Recently, BP announced it would create a $20 billion victim-assistance
fund, which could reduce court challenges.
Robert J. McKee, an attorney with the Fort Lauderdale firm of Krupnick
Campbell Malone, was surprised by how quickly BP hired scientists and
laboratories specializing in the collection and analysis of air, sea,
marsh and beach samples — evidence that's crucial to proving damages
in pollution cases.
Five days after the April 20 blowout, McKee said, he tried to hire a
scientist who's assisted him in an ongoing 16-year environmental
lawsuit in Ecuador involving Dupont.
"It was too late. He'd already been hired by the other side," McKee
said. "If you aren't fast enough, you get beat to the punch."
At the same time it was bolstering its legal team, BP was downplaying
how much oil was spewing from the Deepwater Horizon well — something
that lawyers say is likely to be a critical factor in both court
decisions and government fines.
The BP/Government police state:
By Glenn Greenwald
(updated below - Update II [Tues.])
Last week, I interviewed Mother Jones ' Mac McClelland , who has been
covering the BP oil spill in the Gulf since the first day it happened.
She detailed how local police and federal officials work with BP to
harass, impede, interrogate and even detain journalists who are
covering the impact of the spill and the clean-up efforts. She
documented one incident which was particularly chilling of an activist
who -- after being told by a local police officer to stop filming a BP
facility because "BP didn't want him filming" -- was then pulled over
after he left by that officer so he could be interrogated by a BP
security official . McClelland also described how BP has virtually
bought entire Police Departments which now do its bidding: "One
parish has 57 extra shifts per week that they are devoting entirely
to, basically, BP security detail, and BP is paying the sheriff's
Today, an article that is a joint collaboration between PBS' Frontline
and ProPublica reported that a BP refinery in Texas "spewed tens of
thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the skies" two weeks
before the company's rig in the Gulf collapsed. Accompanying that
article was this sidebar report :
A photographer taking pictures for these articles, was detained Friday
while shooting pictures in Texas City, Texas.
The photographer, Lance Rosenfield, said that shortly after arriving
in town, he was confronted by a BP security officer, local police and
a man who identified himself as an agent of the Department of Homeland
Security. He was released after the police reviewed the pictures he
had taken on Friday and recorded his date of birth, Social Security
number and other personal information.
The police officer then turned that information over to the BP
security guard under what he said was standard procedure, according to
No charges were filed.
Rosenfield, an experienced freelance photographer, said he was
detained shortly after shooting a photograph of a Texas City sign on a
public roadway. Rosenfield said he was followed by a BP employee in a
truck after taking the picture and blocked by two police cars when he
pulled into a gas station.
According to Rosenfield, the officers said they had a right to look at
photos taken near secured areas of the refinery, even if they were
shot from public property. Rosenfield said he was told he would be
"taken in" if he declined to comply.
ProPublica's Paul Steiger said that the reporting team told law
enforcement agents that they were working on a deadline for this story
about that facility, and that even if DHS agents believed they had a
legitimate reason to scrutinize the actions and photographs of this
photographer, there was no reason that "should have included sharing
them with a representative of a private company."
These are true police state tactics, and it's now clear that it is
part of a pattern. It's been documented for months now that BP and
government officials have been acting in unison to block media
coverage of the area; Newsweek reported this in late May :
As BP makes its latest attempt to plug its gushing oil well, news
photographers are complaining that their efforts to document the
slow-motion disaster in the Gulf of Mexico are being thwarted by local
and federal officials -- working with BP -- who are blocking access to
the sites where the effects of the spill are most visible. More than a
month into the disaster, a host of anecdotal evidence is emerging from
reporters, photographers, and TV crews in which BP and Coast Guard
officials explicitly target members of the media , restricting and
denying them access to oil-covered beaches, staging areas for clean-up
efforts, and even flyovers.
The very idea that government officials are acting as agents of BP (of
all companies) in what clearly seem to be unconstitutional acts to
intimidate and impede the media is infuriating. Obviously, the U.S.
Government and BP share the same interest -- preventing the public
from knowing the magnitude of the spill and the inadequacy of the
clean-up efforts -- but this creepy police state behavior is
intolerable. In this latest case, the journalists were not even
focused on the spill itself, but on BP's other potentially reckless
behavior with other refineries, and yet there are DHS agents and local
police officials acting as BP's personal muscle to detain,
interrogate, and threaten a photographer. BP's destructive conduct,
and the government's complicity, have slowly faded from public
attention, and there clearly seem to be multiple levels of law
enforcement devoted to keeping it that way, no matter how plainly
illegal their tactics are.
UPDATE : More evidence here (h/t bamage ):
Journalists who come too close to oil spill clean-up efforts without
permission could find themselves facing a $40,000 fine and even one to
five years in prison under a new rule instituted by the Coast Guard
late last week.
It's a move that outraged observers have decried as an attack on First
Amendment rights. And CNN's Anderson Cooper describes the new rules as
making it " very easy to hide incompetence or failure ". . . .
[S]ince "oil spill response operations" apparently covers much of the
clean-up effort on the beaches, CNN's  Cooper describes the rule as
banning reporters from "anywhere we need to be" . . . .
A "willful" violation of the new rule could result in Class D felony
charges, which carry a penalty of one to five years in prison under
The new rule appears to contradict the promises made by Adm. Thad
Allen, the official leading the Coast Guard's response to the oil
"Media will have uninhibited access anywhere we're doing operations,
except for two things, if it's a security or safety problem," Allen
told ABC News in June. . . .
"[T]o create a blanket rule that everyone has to stay 65 feet away
from boom and boats, that doesn't sound like transparency," [said
The rule has come under severe criticism not only from journalists but
from observers and activists involved in the Gulf Coast clean-up.
"With this, the Gulf Coast cleanup operation has now entered a weird
Orwellian reality where the news is shaped, censored and controlled by
the government in order to prevent the public from learning the truth
about what's really happening," writes Mike Adams at NaturalNews. . .
Reporters have been complaining for weeks about BP, the Department of
Homeland Security and the Coast Guard working to keep reporters away
from wrenching images of oil-covered birds and oil-soaked beaches.
We've frequently heard excuses that the Federal Government has little
power to do anything to BP, but they certainly seem to have ample
power to do a great deal for them. Public indifference about such
things is the by-product of those who walk around like drones
repeating the mantra that political officials know what's best about
what must be kept secret, and that the Threat of Terrorism (which is
what is exploited to justify such acts) means we must meekly acquiesce
to such powers in the name of Staying Safe.
UPDATE II : From The New York Times , June 9, 2010 :
Journalists struggling to document the impact of the oil rig explosion
have repeatedly found themselves turned away from public areas
affected by the spill, and not only by BP and its contractors, but by
local law enforcement, the Coast Guard and government officials.
To some critics of the response effort by BP and the government,
instances of news media being kept at bay are just another example of
a broader problem of officials’ filtering what images of the spill the
This is clearly a deliberate and systematic pattern of preventing
access and coverage that has been going on since the beginning of the
spill. And, as we find in so many realms , it's impossible to know
where government actions end and corporate actions begin because the
line basically does not exist.
BP & Coast Guard bans all media access to spill, boom, cleanup sites and
Under threat of a federal felony, National Incident Commander Thad
Allen HAS BANNED ALL MEDIA ACCESS to boom operation sites and clean up
sites. Allen's orders effectively bans all media - print, television,
radio and Internet bloggers from talking to to any clean-up worker or
to even come close to take pictures or videos of booms, clean-up
workers, oil soaked birds, dead dolphins, dead marine life, burned and
dead endangered sea turtles.
Allen has issued a blanket order that bans anyone from getting close
to any spill clean up site, boom site, areas where there are clean up
workers or any other oil disaster related area or persons effectively
shutting down the first amendment rights of the media. The zone of
exclusion is 65 feet. There was rumor that Coast Guard bosses wanted
to impose a 300 feet exclusion zone but later relented to a 65 feet no
trespass and exclusion zone.
Pentagon OKs up to 17,500 Guardsmen for Gulf oil spill cleanup:
The Birmingham (AL) News
[OK... But will they actually be helping with the/a “Cleanup,” or just
keeping people “off the beach”?]
BP and Military on Panama City Beach July 4 2010
The Relief Wells Are Ahead of Schedule … But Will They Work?
CONTAINS MULTIPLE LINKS to MAINSTREAM SOURCES
...But the relief wells are not a slam dunk, especially at such extreme
Protecting Oil Companies? BP Investigation Blocked
VIDEO OF US SENATE ‘DEBATE’ HERE:
Before the 4th of July weekend, there was unreported maneuver in the
Senate designed to protect BP and the federal government from
liability in the Gulf disaster.
Senate Democrats asked unanimous consent to pass legislation that
would give the BP Oil Spill Commission the subpoena power it needs to
do its job.
The US House of Representatives voted 420 to 1 to give the
presidential commission investigating the BP oil spill in the Gulf of
Mexico full subpoena power. The Senate blocked it.
"Frankly, it's time we have a vote after so many Republican objections
to this commonsense legislation," said Sen. Robert Menendez. "[This
bill] asserts that we want to protect those families, taxpayers, not
oil company profits."
Uniformed Cops On BP Payroll? Enter The ACLU:
The Big Lie: BP, Governments Downplay Public Health Risk From Oil and
by Riki Ott
PENSACOLA BEACH, Florida -- When Ryan Heffernan, a volunteer with
Emerald Coastkeeper, noticed a bag of oily debris floating off in
Santa Rosa Sound, she ran up to BP's HazMat-trained workers to ask if
they would retrieve it.
"No, ma'am," one replied politely. "We can't go in the ocean. It's
Ryan waded in and retrieved the bag. That was Wednesday, June 23, the
first day visible oil hit Pensacola Beach. Ryan had been swimming off
the beach the day before, as she said, "to get in my last swim before
the oil hit." The trouble is that not all of the oil coming ashore is
visible. Dispersed oil - tiny bubbles of oil encased in chemical
dispersants - are in the water column. On Thursday Ryan was treated at
a local doctor's office for skin rash on her legs.
Three days later on Pensacola Beach, I watched BP's HazMat-trained
workers shovel surface oiled sand and oily debris into bags early in
the morning. The workers followed the waterline like shorebirds,
scurrying up the beach in front of breaking waves and moving back down
with receding waters.
The late morning sun retired the workers to the shade of their tents
and the job of "observing," while it brought out throngs of
beach-goers -- children, parents, grandparents -- who happily plunged
into the "contaminated" ocean without a second thought.
I was astounded. Why did people think the ocean was safe for swimming?
There were five HazMat tents, four front-loaders, and at least two
dozen HazMat workers on the beach. HazMat workers wore yellow
over-boots duct-taped to their long pants' legs to minimize risk of
contact with the water. The white surf popped with visible black tar
balls as it rolled towards the beach. Waves left an oily signature of
tar balls on the beach, melting in the sun. The treads of my Chacos
weighed down with oily sand despite trying to avoid the mess. Most
people were barefoot. Hotels set up oil cleaning stations on their
premises - and signs saying the water advisory (put in place after
Ryan's incident) had been lifted.
What's wrong with this picture?
Lots. For starters, Ryan's story from Pensacola Beach is not an
isolated incident. I have received emails and heard personal stories
from Louisiana to Florida of people who have developed skin rashes and
blisters from going in the ocean. People describe stings by "invisible
jellyfish." Turtle patrol volunteers who walk beaches daily write of
blisters and bronchitis. And then there are individuals like Sheri
Allen who took her dog for a walk on a beach in Mobile Bay in May.
Sheri wrote me that her "arms and legs were burning, even after the
shower. The following morning ... (there were) ... small blood
blisters. By evening the blisters had begun to welt. By the fourth
day, the areas had got larger and swollen." She went to see a doctor
but the sores remain and they have begun to scar her arms and legs.
For several days after Sherri's incident, her husband found fish kills
on the beach.
William Rea, MD, who founded the Environmental Health Center-Dallas,
treated a number of sick Exxon Valdez cleanup workers. He once told
me, "When you have sick people and sick animals, and they are sick
because of the same chemical, that's the strongest evidence possible
that that chemical is a problem."
It's not just skin rashes and blisters. At community forums, I
commonly hear from adults and children with persistent coughs, stuffy
sinuses, headaches, burning eyes, sore throats, ear bleeds, and
fatigue. These symptoms are consistent across the four Gulf states
that I have visited. Further, the symptoms of respiratory problems,
central nervous system distress, and skin irritation are consistent
with overexposure to crude oil through the two primary routes of
exposure: inhalation and skin contact.
Most distressing to me are stories about sick children. "Dose plus
host makes the poison," I learned in toxicology. A small child is at
risk of breathing a higher dose of contaminants per body weight than
an adult. Children, pregnant women, people with compromised or
stressed immune systems like cancer survivors and asthma sufferers,
and African Americans are more at risk from oil and chemical exposure
- the latter because they are prone to sickle cell anemia and
2-butoxyethanol can cause, or worsen, blood disorders.
Public officials have failed to sound an alarm about the public health
threat because three federal agencies - DHHS, EPA, and OSHA - cannot
find any unsafe levels of oil in air or water. Perhaps the federal air
and water standards are not stringent enough to protect the public
from oil pollution. Our federal laws are outdated and do not protect
us from the toxic threat from oil - now widely recognized in the
scientific and medical community.
BP is still in the dark ages on oil toxicity. BP officials stress
that, by the time oil gets to shore, it is "weathered" and missing the
highly volatile compounds like the carcinogenic benzene, among others.
BP fails to mention the threat from dispersed oil, ultrafine particles
(PAHs), and chemical dispersants, which include industrial solvents
and proprietary compounds, many hazardous to humans.
If oil was so nontoxic, then why are the spill response workers giving
hazardous waste training? Our federal government should stop
pretending that everything is okay. What isn't safe for workers isn't
safe for the general public either.
Ryan's rash was getting better until she sat on Pensacola Beach to
watch fireworks on July 4. The next day her skin erupted in fiery red
burns. She is worried about her health. So are many other people along
Perhaps it is time for the government to protect public health first
and BP's profit second.
Click here to see Riki Ott's photos.
Riki Ott, PhD, is a marine toxicologist from Alaska, volunteering in
the Gulf. She has written two books on surviving the Exxon Valdez oil
spill - Sound Truth and Corporate Myths on biological impact of oil to
people and wildlife, and Not One Drop on emotional impact of disaster
trauma and litigation to people and community.
www.rikiott.com. Ott is
working with Emerald Coastkeeper and others to petition the EPA to
delist toxic chemical products
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/delist/ in oil spill response.
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