How Will We Clean the BP Oil Off All the Other Oil in the Gulf of Mexico?

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July 30 2010 10:37 AM

How Will We Clean the BP Oil Off All the Other Oil in the Gulf of Mexico?

Campbell Robertson, one of the three best writers at the New York Times, scratches as information-itch today that had been bothering me ever since the Deepwater Horizon disaster turned into a big news story. It was a horrifying fact that all that oil was spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, and BP is a rotten, stupid, reckless company that did an unforgivable thing. The company and the industry deserve all the righteous anger that is coming down on them, and more.

Still, as I read weeks and weeks of coverage about the unspeakable violation of the Gulf's vibrant yet fragile aquatic ecosystem, with its squeaky-clean shrimp and frolicking dolphins and endless reefs of happy oysters, I couldn't help wondering: that doesn't sound quite like the Gulf of Mexico I'd always heard about.

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At least half a million barrels of oil and drilling fluids had been spilled offshore before the gusher that began after the April 20 explosion, according to government records.

Much more than that has been spilled from pipelines, vessel traffic and wells in state waters — including hundreds of spills in Louisiana alone — records show, some of it since April 20.

Runoff and waste from cornfields, sewage plants, golf courses and oil-stained parking lots drain into the Mississippi River from vast swaths of the United States, and then flow down to the gulf, creating a zone of lifeless water the size of Lake Ontario just off the coast of Louisiana.

The gulf’s floor is littered with bombs, chemical weapons and other ordnance dumped in the middle of last century, even in areas busy with drilling, and miles outside of designated dumping zones, according to experts who work on deepwater hazard surveys.

[...]

Even the coast itself — overdeveloped, strip-mined and battered by storms — is falling apart. The wildlife-rich coastal wetlands of Louisiana, sliced up and drastically engineered for oil and gas exploration, shipping and flood control, have lost an area larger than Delaware since 1930.

Where did those petro-imperialist fiends at British Petroleum get the idea they could treat America's precious waters like a garbage dump? From America, naturally.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.