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Unformatted text preview: July 29, 2010 Gulf of México Has Long Been Dump Site By CAMPBELL ROBERTSON Loulan Pitre Sr. was born on the Gulf Coast in 1921, the son of an oysterman. Nearly all his life, he worked on the water, abiding by the widely shared faith that the resources of the Gulf of México were limitless. As a young Marine staff sergeant, back home after fighting in the South Pacific, he stood on barges in the gulf and watched as surplus mines, bombs and ammunition were pushed over the side. He helped build the gulf’s very first offshore oil drilling platforms in the late 1940s, installing bolts on perilously high perches over the water. He worked on a shrimp boat, and later as the captain of a service boat for drilling platforms. The gulf has changed, Mr. Pitre said: “I think it’s too far gone to salvage.” The BP oil spill has sent millions of barrels gushing into the Gulf of México, focusing international attention on America’s third coast and prompting questions about whether it will ever fully recover from the spill. Now that the oil on the surface appears to be dissipating, the notion of a recovery from the spill, repeated by politicians, strikes some here as short-sighted. The gulf had been suffering for decades before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20. “There’s a tremendous amount of outrage with the oil spill, and rightfully so,” said Felicia Coleman, director of Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory. “But where’s the outrage at the thousands and millions of little cuts we’ve made on a daily basis?” The gulf is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the hemisphere, a stopping point for migratory birds from South America to the Arctic, home to abundant wildlife and natural resources. But like no other American body of water, the gulf bears the environmental consequences of the country’s economic pursuits and appetites, including oil and corn. There are around 4,000 offshore oil and gas platforms and tens of thousands of miles of pipeline in the central and western Gulf of México, where 90 percent of the country’s offshore drilling takes place. At least half a million barrels of oil and drilling fluids had been spilled offshore before the gusher that began after the April 20 explosion, according to government records. Much more than that has been spilled from pipelines, vessel traffic and wells in state waters — including hundreds of spills in Louisiana alone — records show, some of it since April 20. Runoff and waste from cornfields, sewage plants, golf courses and oil-stained parking lots drain into the Mississippi River from vast swaths of the United States, and then flow down to the gulf, creating a zone of lifeless water the size of Lake Ontario just off the coast of Louisiana. The gulf’s floor is littered with bombs, chemical weapons and other ordnance dumped in the middle of last century, even in areas busy with drilling, and miles outside of designated dumping zones, according to experts who work on deepwater hazard surveys. The likelihood of an accident is low, experts said, but they added that federal hazard...
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2010 for the course ESPM C12 taught by Professor Garrisonsposito during the Spring '10 term at Berkeley.
- Spring '10