It’s hard to believe that a methane bubble 5,000 feet below the sea caused, what is now being termed as, the worst oil spill in the history of America. But, that is exactly what happened. That and a whole lot of incompetence, not only at BP’s helm but also on governmental levels.
Situated in the Gulf of Mexico and only 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana, the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform was a victim of a catastrophic explosion. The explosion was caused when an oil well blew out leading to not just millions of dollars worth of oil leaking, but also caused the worst environmental disaster in the US. The oil well blew out when a methane bubble escaped from the oil well and travelled into the drill causing the explosion. Methane bubbles are an expected risk at all offshore drilling platforms that is why special safety measures are taken and employed, in case a methane bubble does escape from the oil well. This is where BP and the government departments failed. It was BP’s responsibility to check if their safety measures were intact, while it was the government’s responsibility to keep a check on BP if they were fulfilling their responsibilities responsibly. (I know it’s a word twister, but I assure you there is some sense in their too!)
But, with 47 days in, a staggering 19 to 43 million gallons already floating in the ocean (which continues to increase at a rate of 210,000 gallons per day), it doesn’t matter who the blame lies with (and it lies, mostly, with Transocean Ltd!) The environmental and economic costs have been astronomical; and there is no end in sight. Already, more than 150 threatened or endangered sea turtles have died, as well as more than 316 sea birds, including the brown pelicans and the northern gannets, The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reports. The NWF further reports that 2,000 least tern, an endangered seabird species, laid their eggs on the Gulfport beaches, the oil spill can potentially wipe out the entire least tern population.
The endangered Kemp Ridley sea turtles face the same fate along the Gulf beaches of Texas and Mexico; if the oil reaches them, there is no doubt that the whole species could be killed and completely wiped out. Also, 5,000 bottlenose dolphins live in the surrounding areas of the oil spill. Curious by nature, if these dolphins wander off to the affected area and eat its fish, it could not only harm them but also their young for a long term. To make matters worse, initial estimations of the disaster make experts believe that at least 400 species of animals will be affected. These are just the initial estimations; there is no knowing what the actual damage will be.
However, animals are not the only beings paying the price. The chemicals that BP is using to clean up the oil spill is wreaking havoc with the respiratory systems of the fishermen who are helping with the cleanup effort. The fishermen report that the chemicals are making them cough and feel as if their lungs are filling up. According to Riki Ott, a marine toxicology expert, “The volatile organic carbons act like a narcotic on the brain, and high concentrations, what we learned on Exxon Valdez from the carcasses from harbor seals and sea otters; actually literally fried the brain.” Therefore, the EPA has ordered BP to stop using toxic dispersants.
With a catastrophe of such magnitude the blame game was bound to start. The government departments knew they were to blame too, but in this case they found a readymade scapegoat out of BP. A fat and an ugly goat full of worms in its nose though BP is, it is a scapegoat none the less.