Environment Counts | Gulf oil spill disaster
President Obama has called “The explosion of the BP Deepwater Transocean Horizon rig on April 20, 2010 was the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.”
The Report to the President of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling documents the following facts on the spill.
â€¢The largest accidental oil spill in history.
â€¢The largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.
â€¢4.9 million barrels of oil discharged
â€¢9,700 vessels at peak, including 6,500 government and commercial vessels
â€¢3.8 million feet of hard boom deployed and 9.7 million feet of soft boom deployed
â€¢1.8 million gallons of dispersants used
â€¢411 in-situ burns conducted (265,450 barrels of oil burned)
â€¢127 surveillance aircraft
â€¢1.4 million barrels of liquid waste collected
â€¢770,000 plus gallons subsea dispersants applied
â€¢1.07 million gallons of dispersants applied
â€¢At the height of the oil spill, nearly 37% of the Gulf of Mexico was closed to fishing.
What happened and how it was fixed
A clear visual summary of the explosion, the spread of the oil through the Gulf, the various failed attempts to cap the well and how the final solution was successfully implemented was created as a set of interactive graphics published by Associated Press (AP). Interactive graphics from AP provides an excellent overview of the whole process of stopping the leak. Subsequently the AP team received several awards for environmental communications, including the Polk Award for the oil spill graphics.
The National commission was established in part to assess the environmental impacts of the Gulf oil spill. Chapter 6 of the report titled Oiling a Rich Environment: Impacts and Assessment starts by stating this was the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. The report along with supporting staff papers provide a reasonably detailed summary of the immediate environmental impact of the oil spill and an assessment of the environmental situation one year later. As the report states, the long-term impacts remain largely uncertain.
The impact assessment and findings are organised under the following sections.
- The Impact on Nature
- A rich marine ecosystem
- Assessing the mixture of oil and life at the waterâ€™s edge
- Encountering oil
- The marine impacts
- Birds, mammals, turtles
- Deepwater plumes of dispersed oil
- Supporting independent scientific research
- Economic impacts
- The major industries in the â€œhardest working basin.â€
- Coastal tourism
- Human Health
- Children and families
- Minority fishing communities.
- Tribal communities
- Long-term health effects
The impact assessment is necessarily limited to the first year after the accident as the mandate of the Commission was to report to President Obama within one year.
Video summary presented by the National Commission(10 mins) gives a high level multimedia summary of the event and impacts provides a good general overview. The graphics are not as good as those provided via the AP link above.
Full report of the National CommissionThis is a large document.