Another Oily Insult to the Gulf of Mexico?

Another Oily Insult to the Gulf of Mexico, Many Unanswered QuestionsGulf Overflights Capture Footage and Photos of What Appear to Be Massive, New Oil SlicksGulf of Mexico – Evidence is pointing to two large oil releases occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, south of the Louisiana coast, but officials are drawing few conclusions regarding the incidents. What appear to be large oil slicks have been spotted in the Gulf both to the east and to the west of the Mississippi River and are washing ashore on Grand Isle, the Chandeleur Islands, and other coastal areas.”The striking part of this story are all the unanswered questions. We’re not even sure how much of this substance is oil, or if what appears to be oil actually is. Almost one year after BP’s disaster, oil incident response capability in the Gulf continues to be sorely lacking,” said Aaron Viles, Deputy Director of Gulf Restoration Network.Days after initial rumors of sightings by local fishermen, the Coast Guard has stated they believe the oil west of the Mississippi is coming from a well-capping accident on a platform in an area known as West Delta Block 117, but the company in question reported to the Coast Guard fewer than 5 gallons of oil were released.Volunteers with Gulf Restoration Network, who flew with Dr. Bonny Schumaker of On Wings of Care, captured aerial photography and footage clearly showing there are more than 5 gallons of a foreign substance in the area in question. Footage captured south of Grand Isle on March 23, 2010 can be viewed here, and detailed location information is available at On Wings of Care’s website here. For TV quality high-resolution footage that can be used with attribution to Gulf Restoration Network / On Wings of Care, contact Gulf Restoration Network.”I had hoped I would never again see such large expanses of surface sheen and subsurface deep red plumes, streamers and sheets as I saw all last summer over the Gulf,” said Dr. Schumaker, who flew over 300 hours over the Gulf last summer, “When we first spotted these south of Grand Isle last Friday, I was desperate to believe alternative hypotheses, but all signs seem to indicate more oil pollution.””As the Gulf experiences yet another blow, the federal government is reopening deepwater drilling, but it’s very clear that more must be done to increase the safety of drilling in the Gulf,” continued Aaron Viles, “The Gulf of Mexico needs a Regional Citizens Advisory Council to formally involve local, impacted communities in oversight of oil and gas development and emergency response plans.”If the substance is oil that originated at WDB 117, then why does satellite imagery analyzed by SkyTruth show much of the slick around the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP) and none near West Delta Block 117? Photos from a Tuesday, March 22, flight by Gulf Restoration Network confirm the presence of what appears to be oil in a large area around the LOOP facility.To confuse matters further, Nancy Rabalais, director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium research station in Cocodrie, said scientists from the lab believe the slick is actually a huge, thick concentration of phytoplankton, the plant species of the microscopic critters at the bottom of the ocean food chain.Who is in charge of confirming what is actually out there, and how long will it take?Along with these oil sightings to the west of the Mississippi, massive amounts of what appears to be surface oil have been spotted east of the river approaching Breton Island on the edge of the Chandeleur Sound. While it appears to be completely separate from the incident to the west, there is, as of now, no official explanation. Why has the Coast Guard not yet responded and released more information regarding the separate incident to the east?Once again, aerial photography shows a clear need for a prompt response -. For detailed coordinates and flight path, please see the On Wings of Care notes here.”I am told that NOAA has made no overflights of the Gulf since October 2010. Is it possible that that events like this have been occurring since last summer, or perhaps even before, all over the oil-and-gas littered Gulf?” Dr. Schumaker continued.”Almost one year ago, the BP disaster showed that tighter regulations and more local input are clearly needed to ensure inevitable oil incidents are responded to quickly and effectively,” concluded Mr. Viles, “Unfortunately, it appears that lesson has not yet been learned.”Links -Sample aerial footage from south of Grand Isle – details for footage – satellite imagery – photos of LOOP facility – photos of Breton Island – details for photos – Restoration Network is a 501c3 environmental advocacy organization founded in 1994 whose mission is to unite and empower people to protect and restore the natural resources of the Gulf of Mexico region. GRN has been very active in responding to the BP oil drilling disaster through watchdogging impacts and response while advocating for full restoration and protection of the Gulf. www.healthygulf.orgOn Wings of Care is dedicated to promoting the welfare of domestic animals, wildlife and their habitats, and natural and human-dominated ecosystems by helping with searches, rescues, transports, rehabilitation, medical and veterinary treatment, and scientific research. They have flown over 300 hours over the Gulf since May 2010 conducting aerial reconnaissance and worked with many organizations in the Gulf region.

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