On 20th April, a Deepwater Horizon oil rig belonging to the BP oil company blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. The rig killed 11 employees and started an uncontrolled oil leakage into the ocean. Attempts to manage the spill by use of controlled-burning, dispersants, and plugging the leakage were fruitless until the company capped the oil well in mid-July. This measure momentarily halted the oil flow into the Gulf. The oil well was then successfully stopped and confirmed effectively dead on September 19th. The BP oil spill has attained the doubtful characteristic of being the worst oil spill in American history, exceeding the spill by the Exxon Valdez tanker which spilled out more than 11,000,000 gallons of crude oil in the ecological susceptible, Prince William Sound late in the 1980s. “It is estimated that over 205 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf” (Gillis, 2). This paper will therefore delineate the effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The American White House states that the BP oil spill is most likely the largest environmental adversity America has ever faced. However, the true effect on immediate environments could take a very long time to emerge. “Experts say the unprecedented depth of the spill, combined with the use of chemicals that broke the oil down before it reached the surface, pose an unknown threat” (Tangley, 68). Generally, it is hard to determine all effects caused by such a spill.
The BP oil spill had different effects on different people and organizations. These ranged from life loss, economic, ecological, and environmental impacts. The most immediate impacts realized on the day of the explosion were loss of life, where 11 employees lost their lives. Most workers on the oil rig however escaped on lifeboats with injuries which were later treated.
Economically the oil company reported massive losses emanating from stalled operations, and expenditures. As stated by Adams (4), “on July 5 BP reported that its expenditures on the oil spill had reached $3.12 billion, including the cost of the spill response, containment, relief well drilling, grants to the Gulf States, claims paid, and federal costs”. The American Oil Pollution Act of 1990 also authorizes BP to pay $75,000,000 except if gross negligence is verified. From the day of the spill, the company has been experiencing deteriorating market and company values. Shareholders have also witnessed shrivels in their holdings, losing values to as low as 54 percent of the total value.
The state of Louisiana was closest to the oil spill, meaning it was most affected. The state’s government reported that over a quarter of its 400 miles coastline has been contaminated. Oil was reported to have soiled wetlands, affected breeding grounds, and killed plant and marine life. Mississippi and Alabama states also showed the same effects although to a lesser degree. Because of this, ¼ of American waters in this gulf is barred to fishing, having negative economic impacts on shrimp fishers, oystercatchers, and charter-boat operations.
Ecologically, “the spill threatens environmental disaster due to factors such as petroleum toxicity, oxygen depletion and the use of Corexit dispersant” (Pezeshki, et al, 138). So far, ten National-Parks and reserves are endangered. Over four hundred species of wildlife in the gulf are in danger including rare endangered species. Of these species, birds are most prone, over 34,000 birds which include “gulls. Pelicans, roseate spoonbills, egrets, terns, and blue herons are reported to be most at risk” (McGreal, 153). As shown by McGreal, a complete 2009 record of species in this region reported over 15,700 species in different forms of life. The affected area is comprised of 8,332 species. Among these species were “more than 1,200 fish, 200 birds, 1,400 mollusks, 1,500 crustaceans, 4 sea turtles, and 29 marine mammals” (McGreal, 153).
As shown by McGreal (153), “as of November 2, 6,814 dead animals had been collected, including 6,104 birds, 609 sea turtles, 100 dolphins, and other mammals, and 1 reptile”. Reports from the UFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) show that the causes of death had not been established by early July. The reports also showed dolphins lacking food or acting drunk actually due to the oil spill. Dolphins were also seen gusting oil from their blow-holes as they swam in oil-slick water.
The effects of the BP oil spill that run for over 3 months persist even after the capping of the well. As shown in this paper, some of the most notable impacts included loss of life, health consequences, economic impacts, ecological and environmental effects (in the fisheries department, costs incurred in cleaning the spill, federal costs, and claims). Research has also shown probable unforeseen long-term impacts might be realized.
Adams, David. “BP oil spill: death and devastation and it’s just the start.” The Guardian. 2010.
Gillis, Justin. “The rate of the BP oil spill.” The New York Times. 2010: A3+.
McGreal, Chris. Ecological effects of the deepwater horizon oil slick. Environmental Pollution, 108 (2010): 146-159.
Pezeshki, et al. The effects of oil spill and clean-up on dominant US Gulf coast marsh. Environmental Pollution 108.1 (2010): 129-139.
Tangley, Laura. Gulf Oil Slick Endangering Ecology. Washington D.C. Associated Press. 2010.