PWSK is working with Waterkeepers across the United States to support our colleagues on the front lines of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Last week Waterkeeper Alliance deployed additional staff to the Gulf Coast region and we established four teams who meet daily via conference call beginning at 8 AM Alaska time. The teams are 1) Waterkeeper Command 2) Waterkeeper Technical Support 3) Waterkeeper Communications and most importantly, 4) Gulf Coast Waterkeeper Organizations .
Tapping into the extensive spill expertise among Waterkeeper organizations (WKO's), the Command team is a central group that works to strategize and advise all teams. Key team members with specific spill expertise include the San Francisco Baykeeper, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Casco Baykeeper, Cook Inletkeeper and Prince William Soundkeeper. Our colleagues on the front lines include Louisiana’s Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, Louisiana Bayoukeeper, Alabama’s Mobile Baykeeper, and Florida’s Emerald Coastkeeper.
All teams work to support Gulf Coast Waterkeepers to ensure that:
1) fishermen and the public are informed regarding the human health issues and impacts of HAZMATs,
2) the Waterkeeper's local watershed knowledge and data, established over years of work, is available to Incident Command,
3) there is public oversight and transparency; and
4) environmental, economic and social impacts are documented and reported.
On April 20, BP's oil drilling rig "Deepwater Horizon" was in the final phases of drilling a well off the coast of Louisiana when an explosion occurred on the rig and it caught fire. The rig burned and sank on April 22, leaving 11 dead and an open well on the ocean floor in water approximately 5,000 feet deep.
More than a spill, this disaster has left crude oil gushing from the sea floor in what is now feared to be the worst oil spill disaster in U.S. history. First estimates of 42,000 gallons a day were soon revised to 210,000 gallons a day, and on May 4, BP officials said the spill rate could be as much as 2.5 million gallons (60,000 barrels) a day. At this rate of flow, the spill would surpass the amount leaked from the Exxon Valdez in a bit more than four days. That 1989 spill dumped 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound.
Fishing has been banned in much of the Gulf as the bodies of endangered sea turtles wash up onshore, while people of the Gulf coast wait for oil to reach the shores. The ecological and economic disaster can only be imagined as it remains unknown when the flow can be stopped.
Concerns about Halliburton’s cementing process on the “Deepwater Horizon”—and about whether rigs have enough safeguards to prevent blowouts—raise questions about whether the industry can safely drill in deep water and whether regulators are up to the task of monitoring them.
BP and TransOcean have aggressively opposed new safety regulations proposed last year by a federal agency that oversees offshore drilling in response to a study that found many accidents in the industry. The leaking oil well lacked safety devices, required in European waters, that could have capped this well when disaster struck and should be required in the U.S.
Attempts to stop the flow have included the use of chemical dispersants, many of which contain toxins that may cause additional impacts while having questionable effects on the oil slick.