Here are a two quick updates and slideshows regarding two more monitoring trips we conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (if you have immediate relief needs, please see this blog post with lists of resources):
On Tuesday, September 4th Scott Eustis and I from GRN and Joe Smyth and Jesse Coleman from Greenpeace boarded a charter boat at the Biloxi Small Craft Boat Launch in Biloxi, Mississippi. Our objective on this day was to survey the damage and possible reoccurrence of BP oil on Horn and Ship Islands, islands that are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Due to constraints, we were unable to make it to Horn Island. Instead, we spent the day on East Ship Island and West Ship Island. Because of tidal conditions, our Captain had to anchor the boat and let us off so that we could walk ashore in chest deep water with all of our gear. We did just that and were able to scout the islands and look for impacts from Hurricane Isaac.
We found impacts within no time on both islands. As the photos show, we found a stunning number of dead pelicans, over 100 at least, in our incomplete surveillance of the islands. For the most part, on East Ship, the impacts were in the form of tar balls of which we collected samples and will be sent to a lab for analysis. We found tar balls on both islands. On West Ship, we also found rainbow sheen in several locations. While it cannot be confirmed that the oil is from the BP Macondo well at this time, all indications were that it was oil seeping up from the beach sand on the Gulf side of the island. There is also the possibility that red-tide washed over the island as there were several areas where the tidal pools were reddish in color. The pictures I have provided blelow are all time, date and GPS stamped.
Scott filed reports with the National Response Center and sent the photographs. The Coast Guard called me after they received the reports. I hope that we are wrong and that what we saw was not oil, but I've been monitoring the BP disaster since it began and it looked like oil to me. We shall see. In the meantime, please take a look at the photos in the following brief slideshow. Then, be sure to read on for an update our mission down to lower Plaquemines Parish on September 5th.
This morning, Joe and Jesse, from Greenpeace, and I joined the convoy into lower Plaquemines Parish. Our initial intent was to meet a charter boat Captain and make our way into Barataria Bay and Bay Jimmy. Unfortunately, severe weather caused us to refrain from launching and to reschedule for today.
Nevertheless, the trip was not time wasted. You may recall, I recently posted a blog and photos that showed aerial view of flooded-out coal terminals that were impacting the surrounding landscape. Coincidentally, the convoy took us on to the top of the levee and straight past the river side of the Kinder-Morgan IMT coal transport facility. As such, we were able to see and document at ground-level what I saw from the air this past Sunday.
The flooded coal terminal is a complete environmental disaster. The flood waters at this facility are inundated with coal and the sand barriers that the company built in a futile attempt to contain those waters failed, drastically. To make matters worse, the company is pumping the coal mixed water out of the facility directly into the surrounding landscape, river, and wetlands. For what seems to be miles in each direction away from the terminal, there is a thick dark coating of coal on everything, threatening the community of Ironton. Cows can be seen drinking coal runoff. Birds can be seen searching for food in coal filled ditches. Active pumps can be seen displacing the flood waters from the grounds of the facility and into the surrounding environment.
Take a look at the images and think about this blatant disregard for our environment and communities. Then, imagine that companies are trying to open another similar coal terminal and there are plans to expand the offending terminals I have photographed here. We can't let that happen.
Clearly, the energy industry infrastructure on the Louisiana coast is not ready for even a "moderate" hurricane with accompanying storm surge. It's time to reassess the industry's hurricane preparedness and ensure our communities and environment are protected from fossil fuel pollution.
Jonathan Henderson is the Coastal Resiliency Organizer for GRN.