Bulletin From the Gulf Coast

From Heidi:

Thank you, Sister Wolf, for inviting me to blog about the Gulf Oil Catastrophe. None of the words I use seem powerful enough to convey the complete and utter horror of the situation. Catastrophe will have to suffice. It is certainly not a “spill.” PLEASE stop referring to it as a spill. It is a hemorrhage.

I live in Metairie, which is a suburb of New Orleans, and about 80 miles north of the Gulf Coast. That’s close enough to smell the oil when the wind is blowing in from the south. Some days it’s worse than others. I was pretty freaked out the first time I smelled it; I can’t even imagine how intense it is down there in all of the coastal communities.

A couple of weeks ago, I started reading about the controversial chemical dispersant BP is using to break up the oil. It’s been banned in the UK, but BP already had stockpiles of it and couldn’t use it at home, so they’re using it here. The EPA has ordered them to stop, but they refuse. I saw a local news interview with a fisherman who has been helping spread boom, and he said he felt like he was going to die. He went to a doctor, who upon examination said the man’s lungs looked like he’d had 3-pack-a-day smoking habit, but the man had never smoked in his life. Corexit 9500 can cause central nervous system depression, nausea, and unconsciousness. It can cause liver, kidney damage, and red blood cell hemolysis with repeated or prolonged exposure through inhalation or ingestion. A friend’s parents live in Grand Isle, and she said they’ve all had sore throats for weeks. And suspiciously, many people that I know in the New Orleans area have been complaining of increased headaches and respiratory problems. Here’s a link to a Daily Kos piece about the horrors of Corexit: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/5/13/866201/-Its-basically-a-giant-Experiment:-Corexit-9500,-Oil,-just-Add-Water-Column

Then there are the repeated failures on BP’s part to stop the oil. Containment Dome, Top Hat, Junk Shot, Top Kill — all of it, about as cleverly planned as if a 5th Grade Science class were in charge. Why oh why was there not a tried and true emergency protocol in place before the drilling even started? How is it even possible that anyone allowed the first deep water oil well to be tapped without a reliable disaster plan? The plan they did have was irrelevant boilerplate that mentioned seals and walruses!!! This isn’t the sort of situation where “winging it” is acceptable! The amount of corruption involved here is staggering. So now, they’re going to try to cap the blowout preventer (we get lovely technical drawings on the front page of the paper every day), which will be another failure, no doubt. And BP regrets to inform us that in the process of undertaking that measure, more oil will flow than usual for a few days. Oh joy! Meanwhile, they are drilling two lines down on either side of the busted pipe so they can intercept the oil at the base of the well, effectively cutting off the leak before it starts. And then they claim they’re going to pour cement down the pipelines, sealing the well forever. While I find that about as believably as the Tooth Fairy, we’ll have to wait until AUGUST to even see if they can drill to the right location.

And guess what yesterday was? The start of Hurricane Season! Hooray! This year was already predicted to be more active than usual, but now there are serious concerns about the effects that the oil will have on any storms that develop. For one thing, the oil is keeping the water warmer than it would be, and the warmer the water, the stronger the storm. Then, there’s the bonus question: what will happen if any hurricanes hit land while carrying all the oil and dispersant toxins? Here’s what Russian scientists thinks about that: http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=128113&sectionid=3510203. For those of you who didn’t click the link, here’s the opening line to the article: “The British Petroleum oil spill is threatening the entire eastern half of the North American continent with ‘total destruction,’ reports say.”

So we have the disaster, the failure to fix it, and the ominous predictions for future effects, and to compound that, we have the esteemed Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, and his insulting lies. The endless stream of toxicity that comes out of his mouth mirrors what’s happening in the Gulf. Sometimes he sounds like a spoiled brat, “I want my life back!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTdKa9eWNFw. And other times, he sounds like a doddering buffoon from a Monty Python sketch: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/post_6.html. In response to allegations that the toxic dispersants and oil were making people sick, he had this to say:

“I’m sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill,” Hayward said. “You know, food poisoning is clearly a big issue when you have a concentration of this number of people in temporary camps, temporary accommodation. It’s something we have to be very, very mindful of. It’s one of the big issues of keeping the army operating. You know, armies march on their stomachs.”

Finally, people keep asking why Obama hasn’t taken charge yet. While I do agree that the government does need to take a heavier hand, they don’t have the expertise or the resources to solve the problem. Apparently, BP doesn’t either, but they are supposed to! I’ve read a few articles and heard on NPR that Saudi Arabia had a situation in the early 90s a lot worse than this. It was kept secret from the rest of the world until recently, but their solution was to get supertankers out there to suck up all the oil on the surface. They were even able to salvage 85% of it. I can’t for the life of me understand what in the hell BP is waiting for. That seems like the easiest, most obvious solution ever. While we’re waiting until August (or later, which is more likely), why can’t they at least dispense with the dispersants and suck out that oil as fast as it’s bleeding out???

Thousands of people have lost permanently their livelihoods, many are damaging their health every day, and countless animals have died. When will BP stop wasting time and fix this???

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36 Responses to Bulletin From the Gulf Coast

  1. honeypants / Heidi says:

    I meant to include a link to some photos, but I forgot. Here it is: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/30/louisiana-oil-spill-2010_n_558287.html#s91103

  2. rebecca says:

    Thank you for sharing. You know… this stuff is really painful and difficult to read/ hear about, but that’s nothing compared to what people in the immediate area have to live with every day, and nothing still compared to the implications of this for the Eastern US, and actually, terrifyingly, for the rest of the world as a whole. And sometimes it takes this deep a horror to incite oneself into action. Whatever small action that may be.
    The situation in Gaza provides a nice distraction, no? Pretty soon people will have completely forgotten about oil and chemical dispersants altogether. While the army trucks use gasoline. While the foods we eat use gasoline. While our cars use gasoline. While our expensive clothes that were made in China use gasoline. I mean, me too. It’s me too…

    All the best to you, and everyone who has to live with the immediate repercussions of this.

  3. Alicia says:

    I want to cry right now. This is so awful.

  4. Dru says:

    I’m one of those chumps who unknowingly referred to it as a ‘spill’- but this entire situation is a disgrace! What on earth is BP waiting for- the methods they’ve been using so far are clearly not working, their efforts so far seem more geared towards PR (ha, ha) than actually limiting the damage.

  5. Sandra B says:

    “I’m sure they were genuinely ill, but whether it was anything to do with dispersants and oil, whether it was food poisoning or some other reason for them being ill,” Hayward said”

    Okay, this is just bad customer service. Whether you accidentally make someone a soggy sandwich or give entire cities full of people respiratory problems, you don’t sit there and debate, you apologize, fix it, and eat a couple of bucks in profits if you’re interested in ever doing business again.

  6. honeypants / Heidi says:

    But they are making workers sign waivers absolving BP of ANY liability for any illness incurred while helping with the clean up efforts. To me, that blatantly says: you are going to get seriously sick!

  7. HelOnWheels says:

    The DOJ better prosecute these BP f*ckers to the fullest extent of EVERY applicable law!! This is so disgusting and HUGE that I become physically ill when I hear or read anything about the oil deluge.

    Thank you for your post, Heidi. My thoughts and money and hair are with residents (human & non-human) of the Gulf.

  8. Bessie the Buddha cow: says:

    This is a catastrophe! This morning Michio Kaku said the hemorrhage could last yearS. Yes, years, creating giant dead zones. The dispersants make the situation much more hazardous. Where’s the leadership? Stupid question, the big corporations (oil cos and big pharma) tell the world what and how to walk and talk, at the expense of thousands if not millions of lives.
    Thanks for post, both SW and Honeypants/Heidi.

  9. lizzifer says:

    Welcome to day 44. I sit and watch the updates nightly on MSNBC and CNN, getting more nauseous with each passing day. I can’t take it. Tears, anger, frustration. Really?!! Not one mother-fucker has been able to take charge and correct this asinine mistake. Not one. Lots of dead marine life, and now, as hurricane season looms, we all get to look forward to oil being splattered all over the gulf coast beaches and cities. Hey, at least any local marine life that gets flung about by a hurricane will be dead. Small favors. All this b/c BP refused (or wasn’t forced to have) a fully functional blowout preventer, since a massive spill was “unlikely”. Nice. And as I understand it, all involved are getting a little slap on the wrist. Shouldn’t there be some consequences for those who helped cause the disaster? I have to answer for my mistakes. Shouldn’t they? Maybe if these criminals had to face an adequate punishment, these disasters wouldn’t happen so often.

  10. rebecca says:

    There SHOULD be major consequences. The people responsible for this should be the ones out there cleaning it up, cleaning the oil off the little animals that can’t breathe, and getting poisoned by the dispersants that they can’t pawn off on European countries. They should be forced to see what happens when profit margins become more important than integrity.

    I am so sick of big business being in charge of government policy.

  11. honeypants / Heidi says:

    I didn’t see this link until after I wrote the blog. I had NO idea, but the exact same thing happened in 1979. Same blowout preventer, same failed cleanup measures. It’s unbelievable, and BP apparently didn’t learn a thing from it!

  12. Tricia says:

    Guess what? BP doesn’t care! The amount of oil they are losing is hardly a drop in the bucket compared to what we in the US consume. It’s our responsibility now to contact our representatives and demand an energy bill. Chuck Schumer the other day have the nerve to say “now isn’t the time for an energy bill.” Seriously?? This is how our political system is letting us down. Our dependance on oil is ruining us, and BP is getting away with spending the smallest amount of money possible because our government left us completely vulnerable. And I’m not talking Obama. Ridiculous that people might blame this specifically on him.

    And Honeypants, my heart goes out to you and I’m horrified that you have to deal with this – that ANYONE has to deal with this. But have low expectations from getting any intelligent response from BP. I sat across the table from their lawyers at a deposition where they asked me if the oil I smelled in my backyard (Greenpoint, home to a huge oil leak since the 1950’s) could have come from “lawnmowers.” Yeah, lots of lawnmowers in Brooklyn. The food poisoning story hardly surprises me. (I’m posting this under my name and not my usual work blog name as it’s a continuation of my personal rant and anger towards BP!)

  13. Sister Wolf says:

    Heidi – Aaaah, shit, keep us posted on all developments xoxoxoxo

    liziffer – Same here, I can’t take it. I’m now afflicted with a sense of grief that hangs like a cloud over everything, even my Personal Grief.

  14. WCGB says:

    Wonderful post—It’s so nice to get info from an on-the-ground person.

    I rode the bus/took the train for a week after the gush first happened. One of these days, I’ll break up with the internal combustion engine for reals.

    In the meantime, no number of hot ‘flashes’ or dreams that I am having another baby will take my mind off this horrible tragedy.

  15. alittlelux says:

    i really can’t wrap my brain around this. i feel upset and helpless… and NOTHING IS HAPPENING. they really just don’t give a flying fuck. evil….

  16. Ann says:

    I spent the past weekend at the Gulf Coast of FL. The water was so clear, I could see my toes 4 feet below. Stingrays, manatees, dolphins and a variety of fish all swam past me. I wanted to hug every single one of them and tell them how sorry I was for what was looming ahead. It’s heartbreaking and I feel so angry and helpless, same as everyone else. This whole thing is beyond awful. Excellent post by Heidi and thanks to you, Sister, for sharing.

  17. Iron Chic says:

    “This isn’t the sort of situation where “winging it” is acceptable!”
    ughhhh Why they didn’t already have a plan is the uestion that’s been nagging me too.
    Can we start rethinking this whole oil thing now?
    I’m not smart enough to design an electric car but somebody out there is.

  18. shiny says:

    I understand everyone’s frustration but now is not the time to worry about blame and consequences. Now is the time to put heads together and come up with a solution. Don’t wait for BP and the government to do it for us. There are a lot of brilliant people in this world. Heck, being brilliant is not required – just imagination and cleverness.

  19. honeypants / Heidi says:

    This morning’s headline informed us that while they were trying to cut the pipe, the saw got stuck. So now they’re going to try some sort of shears. Meanwhile, Top Hat Take 2 is in the wings ready for its close up. MORONS! What is wrong with getting the Supertankers to come suck this mess up?

    Oh and the government is seriously bringing in JAMES CAMERON for consultation: http://www.goodcleantech.com/2010/06/white_house_asks_james_cameron.php

    I guess Kevin Costner’s plan isn’t as appealing since he hasn’t won any awards in a while: http://www.latimes.com/sns-graphic-costner-oil-spill-gx,0,7587452.graphic

  20. TheBadKate says:

    If you haven’t seen this yet, do go read it.

    I’m beginning to think really terribly bad things about BP and their motives.

  21. suzanne says:

    Every single aspect of this makes me rage – no forethought, no accountability, no apologies. Sometimes whitecollar crime makes me feel like turning vigilante.

  22. Witch Moma says:

    Thanks Heidi, very informative. Hemorrhage instead of spill – so true. And Tricia I agree completely; we must END our dependence on oil, nothing good comes of it. I understand that will impact my life in every way but I’m ready to do it.

  23. Aja says:

    This is a truly horrifying account. But I’m thankful for the internet because there’s too much media spin and not enough real accounts out there.

  24. Audi says:

    I sincerely hope the executives of BP will be facing criminal charges for this. Newsweek reported that BP has had 760 safety violations in the last 3 years, compared with ExxonMobile’s ONE. That didn’t stop Tony Hayward from taking home £3,158,000.00 in total income last year, and now he’s whining about wanting his life back?? Sure Tony, as soon as we get our wildlife, coastline, and health back, you miserable, greedy fuck. I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if he mysteriously dies before he has to face the music, just like our old friend Kenneth Lay.

  25. WOW says:

    The top executives should all be sued and imprisoned, and heavily fined (to channel funding to fix this shit) for gross negligience. And knowingly pumping toxic substances into the ocean is a crime against humanity!

  26. JK says:

    Heidi, this link isn’t gonna help any. And it ain’t gonna help any of the people I know from when I lived in Houma, Gonzales, or French Settlement either. But it does confirm the “effectiveness” of those blowout preventers you mentioned.

    As to why the hell the MMA, hell the EPA for that matter didn’t have the past to inform the present (and the future) for proper risk assessments? Hell, I don’t know that answer either.


  27. Jocelyn Fraemohs says:

    In China, the BP execs would be subject to a summary trial and then executed – right about now. Shame it won’t happen in America.

  28. I’m from New Orleans too… my parents live in Metairie. Nola always gets the shit end of the stick. It fucking sucks. Bad. Or hard…whichever is worse.

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