Tattered Jeans

After the oil spill: Still looking for answers 5 years later amid Louisiana beauty and hidden concerns

After the big BP oil spill: Still looking for answers 5 years later

Louisiana scene after BP oil spill
The ecology there is unique too, like no other place on earth. I believe Louisiana’s beauty lies in her complexity. Exquisite.   Photo by Katie Oxford
A scene from The Great Invisible about Deepwater Horizon disaster
A scene of the BP disaster from The Great Invisible. Courtesy photo
Louisiana scene after BP oil spill clothes drying on clothesline
 Louisianans are a homespun blend of simple and exotic.  Photo by Katie Oxford
News_oil_oil spill_boom_BP
A boom corralled some spilt oil after the BP disaster. Photo by Charlie Riedel
Louisiana scene after BP oil spill
Their way of life is a rich concoction of Cajun, Creole and maybe, a few rascals. My favorites. Photo by Katie Oxford
Louisiana scene after BP oil spill
A scene from The Great Invisible about Deepwater Horizon disaster
Louisiana scene after BP oil spill clothes drying on clothesline
News_oil_oil spill_boom_BP
Louisiana scene after BP oil spill

I love the Gulf of Mexico like my Mama. Almost. Louisiana and the people there are close to my heart too. When they hurt, I hurt too.

People make fun of these folks and their way of life, but that’s because they don’t understand either of em’. Louisianans are a homespun blend of simple and exotic. Their way of life is a rich concoction of Cajun, Creole and maybe, a few rascals. My favorites. 

The ecology there is unique too, like no other place on earth. I believe Louisiana’s beauty lies in her complexity. Exquisite. 

To mark the recent fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill, articles have been written and documentaries made. I watched one on PBS called The Great Invisible. Seeing the images of the Deepwater Horizon rig (before and after the explosion) made me feel the same way when I saw them five years ago. Scared and sick inside.

 Who we gonna call when the next disaster happens? I’m oversimplifying here but if you just got a new roof and your roof started leaking, wouldn’t you call the roofer? Expect the roofer to know how to fix it?  

If the 11 deaths and the immediate after effects of the BP oil spill were agonizing, watching the spill-cam was horrifying. It showed us a hole in the floor spewing oil like a freight train running with no caboose . . . for five months straight.  The hell inside the hell was, BP didn’t know how to plug it.  

Which begs big questions. Do any of you folks in the oil and gas industry know how to plug a spewing hole today one mile down? Please say yes. If you don’t, then why drill there? 

Secondly, who we gonna call when the next disaster happens? I’m oversimplifying here but if you just got a new roof and your roof started leaking, wouldn’t you call the roofer? Expect the roofer to know how to fix it? 

If the oil industry doesn’t know the highly technical, complicated aspects of drilling deep, who the hell does?

In learning the environmental effects of the BP oil spill, the scientists, God love em’, have a heavy load. Their boots are in the fields and in the labs — working hard to learn what is. Hopefully, these scientists, Mother Nature and time will tell us. I believe in 20 years. But, when the facts do come out (if they do), you can expect the usual folks to spin them. 

I see spin whenever I see the BP ads. They give you the impression that ecology wise, resolution has occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. All’s well. They say things like, “I’m from Louisiana – I grew up here,” to sell sentiment. They don’t mention the complexity of the ecosystem. The necessity of time required and continued study if we’re to learn the real consequences. Long term.

They will never mention the amount of poison they sprayed into the Gulf. Dispersants, called Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, designed not only to disperse the oil, but also, to make it sink.

It did. A-a-a-a-ll the way to the bottom. 

I worried about this from the get-go. When I saw it up close from a boat. Smelled it. Mixed in with the oil and still floating on top of the water then. Now, I fret about the long-term effects of the dispersant. Whether we’ll ever really know. 

For details of these dispersants and the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in terms of the usage, I recommend "The Poisoning" by Jeff Goodell, published in Rolling Stone magazine on August 5, 2010.

When the twin towers fell, the devastation and loss of life were there for all to see. We realized on that horrific day our world had changed. The Gulf of Mexico is a mighty thing but the effects of this tragedy, like millions of gallons of oil asleep on the ocean floor, aren’t as clear for all to see. Not like dead dolphins. Some don’t want you to see.

The Great Invisible. Indeed.

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Editor's note: CultureMap contributor Katie Oxford covered the aftermath of the BP oil spill in a series of columns from 2010 - 2013 that can be found on her author page.