The United States of America is one of the most beautiful places in the world with the mountains and valleys. It is beautiful from the big city of New York City to the open plains in Kansas. In America we take pride in keeping our county and natural resources clean and pristine. But we suffered a major setback in late April 2010. On April 21, 2010 an oil rig ran by the Deep-water Horizon Company and owned by the British Petroleum oil company. On that date a major explosion happened on the oil rig and disappeared under the water.
A catastrophic environmental emergency took place after that explosion when the main pipeline that was feeding the rig started leaking and polluted the Gulf of Mexico. What made it so bad was how long it took officials to accept blame and halt the oil from entering the gulf and contaminating the areas that the oil comes into contact with.
“On April 20, 2010, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon had a dire malfunction. Both its manual and emergency blowout preventers failed to deploy when the worst-case scenario became a reality. An oil rig blowout has the potential to occur when some combination of mud, oil, natural gas, and water erupt from the well, surge up the drill pipe, and ignite at the surface, exploding into an inferno. (Brown 2010)”
What was left was an utter amazing tragedy. With 11 missing and would 17 injured all had to be airlifted off the burning rig out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. After the rig had sank into the gulf the catastrophe was feared to be even worse than first thought. Not only did the rig sink with diesel fuel on board but also had the oil issue. “Earlier in the day, Coast Guard firefighter Katherine McNamara said the rig had been spurting crude oil at a rate of 336,000 gallons per day, though nearly all of it was burning off in the incessant fire.
In the afternoon, after the rig sank, Landry said that it was not yet possible to know how much oil and gas, if any, was seeping from the well head. Another possible environmental threat was the 700,000 gallons of diesel oil stored in the rig. Explosions and fires continued on the rig until it sank at about 10:22 a.m. Thursday. Landry said it was unclear how much, if any, of the diesel had leaked or blown up.” (Fausset 2010)
Almost immediately researchers began looking for a cause of the explosion of the oil rig so that tragedies of this magnitude would not happen in the other oceans where oil rigs are pumping crude oil every day. “A critical 40-minute period during which the Transocean rig crew – the operator of the Deepwater Horizon rig – failed to recognize and act on the influx of hydrocarbons into the well until the hydrocarbons were in the riser and rapidly flowing to the surface. After the gushing oil and gas mixture reached the rig, a routing of that flow to a mud-gas separator, “causing gas to be vented directly on to the rig rather than being diverted overboard.
A flow of natural gas into the engine rooms through the ventilation system. This created a cloud ripe for ignition that the rig’s fire and gas system did not prevent. Failure of the rig’s massive blowout preventer on the sea floor to automatically seal the well, probably because critical components were not working.” (Clayton 2010)
On April 24, 2010 it was discovered that after the explosion a leak had been found approximately 5000 feet under the water in the gulf. IT was estimated that the leak would produce approximately 42,000 gallons of crude oil a day and contaminate the water in the gulf. “Remote-controlled robots operating 5,000 feet under the ocean’s surface were more than a full day into efforts to seal off the oil well, which has been belching crude through leaks in a pipe at the rate of 42,000 gallons a day.
The leaks were found on Saturday, days after an oil rig to which the pipe was attached exploded, caught on fire and sank in the gulf about 50 miles from the Louisiana coast.” (Robertson, Krauss 2010) That attempt failed and the thinking that it would take only a couple of weeks to stop the leak from the pipeline was very wrong. And as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months the leak just kept on polluting the clear waters in the gulf.
What resulted as the oil gushed into the water from the leak was a bunch of ducking the blame as to who was responsible for this tragedy and who would be responsible for the clean-up of this spill that is growing bigger every second. “The response effort has been driven by BP, the company that was leasing the rig and is responsible for the cleanup, under the oversight of the Coast Guard and in consultation with the Minerals Management Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While additional federal resources, including naval support, were available before Wednesday, officials had given little indication that such reinforcements would be deployed so quickly and at such a scale. BP, in turn, has pointed out on more than one occasion that Transocean owned the oil rig and the blowout preventer, a device that apparently failed to function properly and that is continuing to be the most significant obstacle to stopping the spill.
Underscoring how acute the situation has become, BP is soliciting ideas and techniques from four other major oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Shell and Anadarko. BP officials have also requested help from the Defense Department in efforts to activate the blowout preventer, a stack of hydraulically activated valves at the top of the well that is designed to seal it off in the event of a sudden pressure release.” (Robertson 2010)
The only thing worse than the oil that was gushing out of the pipeline that could not be shut off and was spilling crude oil into the gulf of Mexico was that BP kept ducking responsibility for the spill and placing blame on Transocean who owned the oil rig but it was BP that was in charge of running the operation in the gulf.
“With the situation in the Gulf growing more bleak by the day, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar pledged on Sunday to “keep the boot on the neck” of BP to fulfill their responsibility in addressing the spill. As the spill gets worse, BP is facing more pressure for the lax safety precautions and inadequate response plans that created a disaster of this magnitude.
Among the top concerns brought to light in recent days: The Deepwater rig lacked a remote-control shut-off switch, a back-up system that would close the well even if the rig above was destroyed. Countries like Norway and Brazil require these precautions to avert catastrophe, but in the US the technology is voluntary. This is thanks to a 2003 decision by the Bush administration’s Minerals Management Service (MMS), which considered mandating them but decided against it under pressure from oil companies, including BP.” (Sheppard 2010)
So after weeks of finger pointing and ducking the issue of who was responsible of the accident BP finally stepped up, they finally took acknowledgment and stepped in to pay for the eventual stoppage of the leak and the unbelievable cleanup that the spill was doing to the areas affected. “Federal officials said Thursday that far more oil than they originally estimated was probably pouring into the Gulf of Mexico on a daily basis since the collapse of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
The new estimate — 12,000 to 19,000 barrels a day — is two to five times higher than the 5,000 barrels a day figure given by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on April 28, and establishes the oil spill as the largest in American history.” (Zeller 2010)
Not only did the oil have drastic consequences to the oil rig and the company equipment but the devastating effects it had on the environment was un-real. On May 4, 2010 the oil slick hit the barrier islands of Louisiana’s southeast coast. And the oil did not care who it affected. But what the oil did to the environment was unimaginable and what it still does to it today is very sickening. Not to mention the cost of clean-up and the rising cost of oil prices that American citizens had to pocket because of the disaster.
The immediate impacts of the oil in the water was the oil itself that coated the feathers of the birds that would land in the water to catch food and then be stuck and could not fly away. If these birds were not rescued that would be left to die unable to get away from predators and find food. Mammals and fish would ingest the oil into their bodies which would cause them adverse effects such as ulcers and internal bleeding. Also the effect it had on the coral reefs were unimaginable and dead and dying corals were found up to seven miles away from the exploded oil rig.
The cleanup crew also used nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants used on the spill may not be known for years. Though oil is no longer readily visible on the surface, it isn’t gone. Scientists have found significant amounts on the Gulf floor, and the oil that has already washed into wetlands and beaches will likely persist for years.
We likely will not see the full extent of impacts for many years, which makes creating and implementing successful restoration plans a serious challenge. “Undersea oil is a major threat to both large and microscopic marine life, and is already threatening the existence of the brown pelican, the ridley and loggerhead sea turtles, whales, coral reefs and other organisms found in the deepwater habitat. The Gulf is also home to 207 species of saltwater fish, a large portion of which are sought for human consumption in addition to being key prey to other organisms in the food chain” (Assar, 2010).
On July 15, 2010 oil from the ruptured oil pipeline that was broken and began spewing oil into the gulf of Mexico more than two and a half months prior was successfully stopped and the biggest oil spill in the history of the United states was stopped but the effects will not be known in our lifetimes. Researchers are concerned that the oil that is lying hidden in the bottom of the ocean will have serious effects on the marine life for quite a while.
Jkalal Assar. (Jun 27, 2010). Long Term Environmental Effects of the BP Oil Spill. In 101. Retrieved 10/24/2012, from http://suite101.com/article/the-long-term-ecological-effects-of-the-bp-oil-spill-a252370.
Alanna Brown. (June 1, 2010 ). The BP Oil Spill: What Happened And Who’s To Blame?. In luxecoliving. Retrieved 10/23/2012, from http://www.luxecoliving.com/lifestyle/the-bp-oil-spill-what-happened-and-who%E2%80%99s-to-blame/.
Clayton, M. (2010, Sep 08). BP report on cause of gulf oil spill spreads the blame. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/749953167?accountid=32521
Richard Fausset. (April 23, 2010). Flaming oil rig sinks in Gulf of Mexico. In Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10/24/2012, from http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/23/nation/la-na-oil-rig-20100423.
CAMPBELL ROBERTSON. (April 29, 2010). White House Takes a Bigger Role in theOil Spill Cleanup. In The New York Times. Retrieved 10/23/2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/us/30gulf.html.
CAMPBELL ROBERTSON CLIFFORD KRAUSS. (April 26, 2010). Robots Work to Stop Leak of Oil in Gulf. In The New York Times. Retrieved 10/24/2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/us/27rig.html?_r=1.
Kate Sheppard. (May. 2, 2010 ). BP Getting Heat for Gulf Disaster. In MotherJones. Retrieved 10/24/2012, from http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/05/bp-getting-heat-gulf-disaster.
TOM ZELLER Jr.. (5/27/2010). Estimates Suggest Spill Is Biggest in U.S. History. In The New York Times. Retrieved 10/24/2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/28/us/28flow.html.