BP Memories that don’t fade

Rosina Philippe by oiled marsh, photographed by David Helvarg
Rosina Philippe by oiled marsh, photographed by David Helvarg

April 20 marks the 5th anniversary of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A federal judge has ruled that BP demonstrated “gross negligence” leading to the blowout and spill. Still BP (and former Pentagon) spokesman Geoff Morrell insists that the Gulf is now, “better than ever,” and the company is fighting claims for damages. The following is excerpted from my newly released book, ‘Saved by the Sea – Hope, Heartbreak and Wonder in the Blue World.’
I’m flying in a small Cessna over the site of the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. Below us roughly one hundred dolphins and a humpback whale are trapped and dying in the oil that’s spread from horizon to horizon. Nearby, half a dozen columns of dark smoke rise 2,000 feet into the air from where BP contract crews are trying to burn off some of the surface oil, while roaring flames shoot from one of the diversionary wells where eleven workers aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig were killed and dozens of ships are now positioned in the hazy smog…
I visit miles of fouled beaches from Louisiana to Florida; a bird-scrubbing facility, where hundreds of oiled pelicans are being cleaned; and the Atakapa Ishak Indian community of Grand Bayou near Burus Louisiana, a small town that was kindling and rubble the last time I was there, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Buras wasn’t much before Katrina, but it’s much less now, with fewer residents, a hollowed-out strip mall where the town fire truck is parked inside the shell of a discount store, and no signs of recovery five years on unless you count the home-built flower boxes someone’s attached to a rusting FEMA trailer. Only the heat and humidity remain unchanged.
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