At this moment, we are hopeful that the cap that was placed on the BP oil well that has been creating havoc on our Gulf of Mexico since April 20th will hold. It is moment by moment, as the company is continuing to test the pressure and is hopeful that the flow of oil and gas will be contained.
In the meantime, efforts to clean up the shorelines and the Gulf continue. The agencies that are responsible for oil clean up are the United States Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency. It seems that every way possible to clean up this mess has been tried. From booms placed in the water to contain the oil, to boats that skim or suck the oil from the water into containment tanks, the continual flow of oil has been extremely challenging. The oil has been set on fire –“ in situ burning”, or controlled burning that is done by the Coast Guard under certain conditions, when the sea is in a low state. Because it is mostly oil, it can cause toxic smoke, but it is a trade-off between leaving the oil to remain in the gulf water or air pollution from the burn, which is of shorter duration. NIOSH has been monitoring the air quality aboard response vessels, and recommended that Dust Masks and Respirators be available to all burn crews.
Dispersants were sprayed on the water by planes, to break up the oil, but some scientists feel that these chemicals are absorbed into the water, resulting in danger to marine life and corral reefs.
Another method of clean-up in the water is being done by two skimmer rigs, the Discoverer Enterprise, a ship that can collect, process, and store oil. The Q4000 can’t process or store crude oil, but can burn the oil and gas through an “Evergreen” burner, creating a clean burn by eliminating visible smoke emissions.
In Northwest Florida, efforts to clean up some of their beaches resulted in removing too much sand. The weight of tractors and trailers destabilized the shoreline, making it vulnerable to natural erosion. Also, the weight of heavy machines forced oil deeper into the sand, creating a safety hazard.
So it seems, these folks on the southern coastline areas can’t win for losing. This has been a terrible puzzle to try to piece together to get the mess contained. It may be months or even years before things will be back to normal. Those who make their living, such as fishermen, and the entire tourist industry have suffered greatly. Hopes are that they will be reimbursed quickly in order to fulfill their regular day-to-day obligations.
Thankfully, the workers are wearing protective gear, such as sunglasses, gloves, vests, and hats. Some are required to wear Tyvek clothing that protects them from hazardous materials. The exact health risks are yet not fully determined for those who must do this work.
We hope that our friends that have been affected by this terrible accident can soon see the light at the end of the tunnel, and someday see their beautiful blue water and wildlife back to normal.