April 12, 2012
Conservation Update: The Oil Stopped Two Years Ago, but the Spill Continues
By Bob Marshall
In the coming weeks, media groups will be publishing and broadcasting special reports marking the second anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But what Ryan Lambert and other Louisiana coastal sportsmen and guides want the nation to know is that the spill isn't over.
"The oil and gas might have stopped flowing, but the spill is still going on for us," said Lambert, who runs Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, La. "We're still seeing the impacts every day.
"My fishing business is still way down. We still see some (isolated) patches of oil, some tar balls on the beach, some dead birds and dolphins.
"BP likes to say they made it all right. The spill is over. Everything is cleaned up. They're wrong. It's not over, and it probably won't be over for years. And that's when we'll finally know how much damage it did."
That was also the signature message from the National Wildlife Federation as the group issued a report highlighted by grades given to the health of key components of the coastal ecosystem two years after the spill.
The group was careful to explain that assessing the impacts of the oil after two years was difficult for several reasons: Louisiana's coast was already decaying due to a variety of human cause, many of the species being monitored may not show impacts for several years, and most of the assessments being done by government agencies are being withheld from the public for now because they are part of a legal process to determine how much the responsible parties will be charged.
But slides of recent trips to one of the heavily oiled marshes that had been declared "clean" left no doubt the oil was still there. The viscous black liquid often oozed into the foot prints left by visitors. Other areas showed long tar-like mats of congealed oil.
While such evidence is certainly the exception on the state's coast, the project shows just how resilient the oil has been in the face of clean-up efforts - and how important it is that Congress make sure BP makes enough money available for clean-up to continue for many years.
None of this will be a surprise to Alaskans. Twenty years after that disaster, oil is still present and doing damage in Prince Williams Sounds, as the state's report found.