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Friday, July 16, 2010

The terror lurking below

BP claims to have sealed the well, but it's likely that the wellhead has been damaged to the point it can't contain potential leaks. The pressure at the new well cap may fall within tolerable thresholds because it's coming out somewhere else. The absence of information about what's happening on or around the wellhead on the sea floor makes the extent of secondary leaks unknown by anyone outside the BP/Fedgov response team.

I'm guessing that this story is far from over. In part I do this based on the apparent ease with which this gusher has been stopped. I wish I could say I was wrong, but the evidence of a far worse and perhaps worsening problem is compelling.
BP wants to mask the worst case scenarios out of self-interest. It could be removed from the crisis response team and lose control over the PR effort that is attempting to minimize the political costs and fines associated with the spill.

Wait a second! We've got BP still in control of the clean-up despite the fact that they're facing a fine per barrel of oil leaked. This means the company has every incentive to disguise the scale of the disaster. And that motive has likely guided the choice of dispersants.

An EPA study deemed that Corexit 9500 is safe based on a 96-hour testing timeframe using shrimp larvae and river fish. The tests are also conducted at temperatures far below the Gulf's. With all that oil in the Gulf, it's possible Corexit could have far more toxic effects. A petition to stop the use of solvents (Corexit 9500 can be classified as this) is circulating on the Web here: Stop Using Solvents In Our Oceans Petition.

As I've said before, the Corexit reduces the size of the oil molecules to that which can be airborne, meaning oil can be carried in the rain. See YouTube - Breaking: BP Gulf Oil Spill Toxic Rain Falls on Cars, Ground, Central Texas; I also saw some disturbing videos from the Miami area, where evidence of chemical burns appears on vegetation. It could be the oil, or the dispersant, or some chemicals emitted by ruptures on the sea floor.

Another nasty potentiality is a hurricane strengthened by the higher water temperatures created by the abundance of oil in the water. We don't know how much warmer the Gulf is but we can be certain a hurricane would be strengthened.

There are rumors that the Coast Guard is actually spraying bleach on beaches to cover up the oil there. We do know that extensive efforts to cut off public access to beaches have been made. Reporters and media people appear to be singled out for special treatment and arrest. Just what is it that has BP and the authorities so concerned? Possibly it's the images of stricken wildlife like these that could sufficiently enrage the population. Perhaps if enough people get angry enough, the current response would appear inadequate and new more drastic actions taken.

Now BP and the powers-that-be do have a reason to keep beach-goers away due to the toxicity of the oil. Amazing it is to me that anyone would go near the oil. This isn't refined crude! The oil is toxic and corrosive. Additionally volatile and caustic effects on boat hulls and skin have been recorded. If the oil can eat through a boat's hull, your accidental tourists should hardly let the kids play in it.

Then there are the toxic gases emerging alongside the oil. Industry expert Matt Simmons has been interviewed in a number of media outlets (a six-part interview on Christian radio is here; Simmons was on Dylan Ratigan show briefly yesterday (link here.) [Ratigan has a great rant against the financial industry--I'll link to it in a future post perhaps.]

Benzene is one of the major threats, alongside methane. The possibility that a giant methane gas bubble is building has many people scared. Should the methane deep under the ocean floor melt (it's currently locked into solid form), the sea floor could rise, bulge and erupt. Methane, when brought to the surface, would make all surface ships sink due to a loss of buoyancy. It's suspected in Bermuda Triangle disappearances.

A leak large enough could doom the whole world to a Permian-type event, at least according to one article in The Guardian. Methane is a greenhouse gas that heats the atmosphere; I read that the Gulf spill has put more methane gas in the atmosphere than any other documented event in the modern era.

Then there's the possible tsunami created by a massive undersea displacement of seawater as the methane bursts forth. I'd consider this possibility narrow, but utterly catastrophic due to the size of the tsunami, which could be large enough to cross Florida.

A hurricane could accomplish the same type of damage, albeit on a more limited area of effect. All the toxins associated with the leaking oil could be blasted deep into the interior where they could pollute inland lakes and waterways. Not an appealing prospect.

Finally, I wanted to link to a comment I made at OpEdNews concerning the Gulf oil spill. I come down a little hard on the article author, who's genuinely concerned about the pattern of ecological abuse inflicted on people in the Gulf region. As much as I want to be sympathetic, at this point I believe that:
the effectiveness of their message can be diluted by worthy but irrelevant social justice and green energy issues. The Gulf tragedy is best messaged as an economic event, because that's what our capitalism-based political system recognizes and will respond to, not the plight of the "small people." Call it realpolitick, or whatever, but the top priority needs to be getting the spill stopped.

In no way do I want to distract the public from the gravity of the threat, and as important as the longer-term trends are, the blogosphere has a much more urgent priority in watchdogging this tragedy and its response.

7-18 Addendum
Keith Olbermann continues to assert threats posed to First Responder safety. See this video episode from MSNBC.

He brings up the toxicity of the dispersants and offers the link, www.BPmakesmesick.com

Olbermann's guest, Marylee Orr of the Lousisiana Environmental Action Network, says that over 7 million gallons of dispersants have been used, a jump over the "hundreds of thousands" of gallons claimed in the intro part of the video segment.

The fact we don't know how much has been used exposes the ulterior motive of BP to disguise the toxicity of its response. BP's unwillingness to let clean up workers wear masks show they're hypersensitive to bad PR which could emerge once facts about the scale of the disaster and the health dangers caused by BP's response are exposed.

The severity and frequency of First Responder sickness should be a source of concern for regulators and government but isn't. Halfway down this page is an older Olbermann video from June on this major health threat called T.I.L.T. Toxicant-Induced Lost Tolerance.

Can we trust BP? And Fedgov delegates oversight to the company, can we trust FedGov? If you're a clean-up worker, I'd hire a good lawyer for the class actions that will come. I guess we could see a replay of the 9/11 First Responder tragedy, where no one is willing to help with the medical costs. Meanwhile responders must choose between wearing masks or feeding their families. Like the 9/11 First Responders, many will die--their sacrifice on our behalf remembered only by their families.

Like Nixon and Watergate, it's the coverup and lying that provides evidence of an underlying crime.

I'm going to take a contrarian viewpoint here and predict that the well is still leaking (although perhaps not at the top). Would BP tell us that the capping process can't seal the multiple subsurface leakS, if they've expanded across the sea floor? I suspect that BP will use the capping procedure as a legal defense to claim the other leaks aren't its fault. The story about all those other capped, abandoned wells strewn about the Gulf could support that lie.

Sources (more recent first):
1) Dispersant facts
2) ah, mephistophelis.: More Dispersant Used Than Oil Spilled In Any Previous Accident
3) Oil Spill - BP Trying To Hide Toxic Oil with Corexit Chemical Dispersant Agent?
4)BP Looks to Profit from Oil Salvaged from Gushing Well | CommonDreams.org
5) Underwater Oil Plumes In Gulf EXPOSED By ABC News (VIDEO)
6) Gulf oil spill: BP has a long record of legal, ethical violations - More News - MiamiHerald.com

Gulf Oil Spill Tracker


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