BP officials reportedly told an AP reporter that it may be months before they can stop all of the leaks. It all depends on how fast they can dig a relief well. Meanwhile, concern continues about the health hazards associated with contact with the oil and oil contaminated trash, wildlife and water.
According to the latest reports from the area: "The leak may not be completely stopped until a relief well is dug, a project that could take months. Another effort that BP said will begin Tuesday at the earliest will shoot heavy mud, and then cement, into the blown well, but that method has never been attempted before in mile-deep water and engineers are not sure it will work." (AP)
Meanwhile, during those months when oil continues to leak into an already over-loaded ocean and marsh, what will the government be doing? Watching? Waiting? Commandeering BP equipment? Fining BP? Ensuring that clean up crews are safely protected by HAZMAT gear?
What are we in for in the weeks and months ahead, as entire ecosystems are destroyed, altered and polluted? How about the shrimp crop that fishermen say is destroyed? How about the fishing stocks, the marine creatures?
AND: How about the algae, the oxygen makers and atmospheric oxygen creators?
It is interesting that news reports continue to focus on bird, fish and marshes, when destruction of algae stocks will inhibit or destroy the planet's ability to create atmospheric oxygen. And, if that happens, it's bye, bye human race. Researcher James Perrin Ross of the University of Florida says:
Oil spilled at sea breaks into many different chemical and physical components that spread throughout the system- floating, suspended in the water, sunk to the bottom, buried in sediments and coating organisms and coastal habitats. Marine organisms-plants and animals from smallest plankton to largest whales, can be affected by both the physical and chemical impacts of oil, tar and toxic oil compounds. While the immediate effects can be catastrophic, and medium and long term effects last for years or decades and affect all parts of the system, marine ecosystems are resilient and eventually recover.
However, this catastrophic spill is not a single event such as a ship breaking apart. By the time all is said and done, given the months long process drilling a relief well, all life within range of the oil spill, its dispersal, and associated toxic effects of dispersants, will be affected: human, animal, plant, fish and bird.
Components of an oil spill
Floating crude oil
Lighter insoluble components in water films
Soluble toxic components dissolved in seawater
Volatile components in atmosphere
Floating emulsions of oil and seawater
Particles and globules of oil and emulsion floating, suspended and sunk
Oil, films, emulsion and tar coating marine substrates and organisms
Oil, emulsion, and tar buried in marine and coastal sediments
Tar balls, floating and buried in underwater and coastal sediments
All life that comes in contact with this oil contaminant is at risk. All life.
Fish larvae, single celled algae and many kinds of plankton are vulnerable and these are the basic foundation of the marine food chain. In shallow water these toxic substances may directly kill algae, coral and sea grasses. These components may also be passed in the food chain or directly ingested or absorbed through the gills of fish and other larger marine organisms. The effect may be to kill the animal or contaminate its tissues. (Source: click here
And the dispersants that are being used in such massive quantities do not eliminate the oil contaminant. Dispersants merely dilute the oil and spread it out.
it is important to recognize that the oil does not go away- its all still there, just in the form of smaller particles and emulsion that is less mobile. In addition, dispersants may also be toxic or have deleterious effects on the natural environment, particularly on small single celled organisms. (University of Florida)
What organisms are vulnerable?
Phytoplankton (single celled marine algae) -soluble toxins, entanglement in emulsions, shading
Zooplankton -soluble toxins, emulsions
Sea grass and algae- shading, coating, toxins
Eggs and larvae of fish, crustaceans, molluscs-soluble toxins
Pelagic invertebrates (e.g. squid, jellyfish, salps)- toxins, reduction and contamination of prey
Pelagic and coastal small fish- ingested particles, absorbed toxins
Pelagic and coastal large fish- ecosystem effects, reduced productivity and prey, tissue contamination
Mobile benthic and coastal invertebrates (e.g. crabs, shrimp, octopus, conch, scallops)-toxicity, food contamination, coating, tissue contamination.
Fixed benthic and coastal invertebrates (e.g. mussels, oysters, corals)- toxicity, coating, impaired feeding, ingestion, tissue contamination.
Sea turtles- breathing, coating and ingestion of particles, food (contamination of benthic invertebrates, algae and sea grass).
Cetaceans(dolphins and whales)- breathing, coating and ingestion of particles, reduction and contamination of prey
Manatees -breathing, coating and ingestion of particles, system effects- sea grass mortality
Birds-coating, ingestion, system effects food contamination
Source: University of 'Florida
In 2009, long before this latest oil spill, scientists were raising the alarm about the decrease in oceanic plankton. Fish stocks were starving because of the decreased plankton populations. And there are other problems.
Plankton are one of the smallest organisms on the planet yet the support a massive eco-system. Everything from small cod fish to large humpbacked whales feed on the tiny crustaceans. Plankton also plays a role in removing vast amounts of carbon emissions from the atmosphere that eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean. (Source: click here
Between the potential for increased cancer and genetic abnormality rates in affected Gulf human populations, we must think of the global issue: decreased ability of plankton to reduce carbon emissions from the atmosphere. The book hasn't been closed on this catastrophe and won't be closed for decades, if not longer.