Three years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana, sending an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the sea, reports indicate the cleanup is far from over.
While BP has officially wrapped up its cleanup campaign, remnants of the spill remain in Gulf Coast states. One tourist interviewed by Weather Underground claimed he had come across the tar balls during a stroll along the beach.
“I was out there yesterday and stepped all in it,” John Henson, a tourist hailing from Atlanta, told Weather Underground.
He’s not alone.
From April through mid-June, officials fielded 96 reports of tar balls off the coast of Alabama’s Baldwin County. It was the same case in Florida’s Escambia County, where the National Response Center identified another 96 cases, according to Weather Underground.
Despite ongoing reports of the spill’s impacts along coastlines, the Coast Guard has halted its regular monitoring crews, effective this month, in all states but Louisiana. Prior to the decision, the Coast Guard regularly monitored coastlines for spill remnants in all impacted states, sending the cleanup bill to BP.
Now, the Coast Guard sends out guardsmen only when the National Response Center deems them necessary, with BP still carrying the bill. According to legal organization Fund My Suit, as of May, BP’s spill cleanup fund — originally $20 billion — had dwindled to just $1.7 billion.
The BP Deepwater Horizon explosion was deemed the largest of its kind, yet it’s not the first time oil companies have found themselves dealing with a seemingly never-ending spill.
The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill dumped 11 million gallons of crude oil off the Alaskan coast. While cleanup efforts ensued following the incident, researchers continued to discover the impacts 10 years down the road. In 2001, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report surveyed 96 sites on 8,000 miles of coastline near the spill. It discovered buried oil, susceptible to release by the work of a severe storm or the burrowing of an animal.
Oil spills have caused headaches for Americans who live inland, too. In March, residents of Mayflower, Ark., suffered a 500,000-gallon Exxon crude oil spill in the heart of their residential community. Less than one year prior, Wisconsinites were dealing with a 1,000-barrel leak stemming from a faulty Enbridge pipeline.
If the Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez spills are any indication, people in those areas could have a long cleanup ahead.
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