United States: Gulf clean-up lies exposed

October 9, 2010
Truthout came across a large area out in the Gulf of Mexico, about five miles from shore, where emulsified white foam covered th

In August, Truthout conducted soil and water sampling in Pass Christian Harbor, Mississippi, on Grand Isle, Louisiana, and around barrier islands off Louisiana’s coast to test for the presence of oil from BP’s Macondo Well.

Laboratory test results from samples taken reveal very high concentrations of oil in the soil and water. These results contradict consistent claims by the federal government and BP since August that much of the Gulf of Mexico is now free of oil and safe for fishing and recreational use.

The samples were tested in a private laboratory via gas chromatography. The environmental analyst who worked with me did so on condition of anonymity and performed a micro extraction that tests for total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH).

The lowest reporting limit tan analyst is able to detect from a solid sample is 50 parts per million (ppm).

A water sample from inside Pass Christian Harbor, taken on August 13 contained 611 ppm of TPH. Seawater that is free of oil would test at zero ppm of TPH.

A soil sample containing tar balls from the beach on Grand Isle, Louisiana, taken on August 16, had 39,364 ppm of TPH.

A water sample taken on August 16 from a pool of water on Casse-Tete Isle, Lousiana, had 57 ppm of TPH.

Several soil samples were tested from an oil-covered beach on the island. A sample of soil taken from this area had 40,099 ppm of TPH. Much of the marsh grass was stained black and brown with oil.

A sample of marsh grass in this area of Casse-Tete Isle contained 144,700 ppm of TPH.

A water sample taken from a tide pool on West Timbalier Isle, Lousiana, on August 16 had 11 ppm of TPH.

Disturbingly, despite these results and a continuance of fish kills along the Louisiana coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has recently partnered with BP to send personnel into middle schools in Louisiana to convince school children that Gulf seafood is safe.

Meanwhile, several recent huge fish kills continue to occur in other areas of Louisiana.

A water sample taken from an inland lagoon on West Timbalier Isle had 521 ppm of TPH. Sampling was also conducted on beach areas of West Timbalier Isle on the same day. A soil sample containing tar balls had 40,834 ppm of TPH.

A soil sample taken near a layer of tar on the beach of West Timbalier Isle had 60,068 ppm of TPH. A soil sample taken from another inland lagoon on West Timbalier Isle had 4,506 ppm of TPH.

After leaving the area, Truthout came across a large area out in the Gulf of Mexico, about five miles from shore, where emulsified white foam covered the surface.

Fisherpeople and other journalists across the Gulf told Truthout this phenomenon is what is left after dispersants were used to sink surface oil.

A water sample from surface of this area contained 11 ppm of TPH. It was taken from an open-water area between Timbalier Isle and Port Fourchon at 3 pm on August 16.

The US Coast Guard claims no dispersants have been used since mid-July.

Jonathan Henderson, with the nonprofit environmental group Gulf Restoration Network, was on board to witness the sampling, as well as to conduct his own.

The hydrocarbon tests conducted on the samples I took represent only a tiny part of the Gulf compared to the huge area affected by BP’s oil catastrophe.

A comprehensive sampling regime across the Gulf, taken regularly over the years ahead, is clearly required to implement appropriate cleanup responses and public safety precautions.

[Reprinted from www.truthout.org.]

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