Last Saturday I attended a public forum at the Hilton on Pensacola Beach, sponsored by the Oil Spill Academic Task Force – a consortium of Florida Universities that has come together to support agencies and the public with scientific analysis of data independently collected by the member institutions’ scientists. See adjacent links.
I think it is very important to gather facts independent of the media or BP sites. Use this information to ask your own questions. You will find numerous links on the OSATF site.
During this meeting, Dr. Ian MacDonald (Florida State University) and Dr. Richard Snyder (University of West Florida) gave presentations on their data. MacDonald showed evidence of almost 20,000 barrels a day of spill – much greater than what BP originally reported. His evidence was gathered with satellite imaging.
Dr. Snyder discussed the nature of sheen and how as a very thin layer of oil it could potentially evaporate in the warmth of the sun and how microbial digestion would also be able to eliminate much of it. However, he cautioned that as currents change or choppy seas increase, this thin layer can bunch together and become thicker. As it moves into our marshes and intercoastal waterways, the lack of oxygen in estuarine waters (anerobic conditions) will reduce the level of microbial action that could break down the toxic goo.
Another issue is the dispersant that BP is spraying into the midlevel of the undersea column of oil that is unfortunately toxic to plankton and wildlife. The Red Snapper and other species that release their eggs into the water are subject to a possible generational loss if eggs drift into the oil spill area – which is predicted.
We are not sure exactly how it will all play out, but we know with certainty that you cannot release that much oil into an ecosystem without consequences. Citizens must act and must ask a lot of questions.
One that a woman asked was: “Why are there no images of the oil spill under the water? Who is keeping them out of the media?”
Another: “Who decided to use dispersant and will it continue to be used?”
And of course the one we all would like an answer to: “Will BP be able to stop the spill? What happens if it goes on indefinitely?”
That one I don’t even want to contemplate.
We learned that tar balls may only reach our shores if they roll up on the Continental Shelf. Much of the heavier oil deposits are expected to sink to deeper areas of the Gulf ocean floor. What we know will happen is that as we get closer to summer months, the winds shift to southerly flow which will bring the oil spill into the Gulf coastal communities.
We may not see the like of an Exxon Valez spill on our beautiful beaches, but our wildlife, fishermen and industry, our tourism, and our health will be impacted, especially if the spill continues.
One of the professors said this: “Essentially we are asking the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem to clean up our mess.”
The value of ecosystem services has rarely figured into American business plans, principally because they would tip the profit margin toward unfeasibility. That would also require that people regard these ecosystems and the living communities that make them viable and renewable as equal in rights to the our own species. Up till now, most Americans think that a ridiculous notion.
Perhaps we will reconsider it.