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America's Gulf: Updating the Greatest Ever Environmental Crime

By Stephen Lendman - Posted on 25 August 2010

America's Gulf: Updating the Greatest Ever Environmental Crime - by Stephen Lendman

For months, US media reports distorted and lied about its severity, running cover for BP and the Obama administration, now practically avoiding the crisis altogether as it worsens. An August 20 Inter Press Service report is revealing, quoting Biloxi, MS fisherman Danny Ross saying hypoxia (depleted oxygen) is driving horseshoe crabs, stingrays, flounder, dolphins, and other sea life "out of the water" to escape. Another area fisherman, David Wallis said he's "seen crabs crawling out of the water in the middle of the day."

Other reports cite strange marine life behavior, sighted near the surface when they normally stay well submerged. Alabama fisherman Stan Fournier said in 40 years of work, he's never seen anything like it. "It looks like all the sea life is trying to get out of the water," unable to breathe in their normal habitat, what US media reports won't touch, instead hyping success, saying BP's well capped and most oil dissolved when, in fact, it won't degrade for decades, remaining a lethal cocktail combined with dispersants, killing wildlife and poisoning anyone eating it, assuring a coming epidemic of cancers and other diseases.

On August 19, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) senior scientist Bill Lehr, in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, retracted his earlier claim about most oil dispersed and dissolved. He now says "I would say most of that is still in the environment," as much as 90%, only 6% burned and 4% skimmed, the rest contaminating a large part of the Gulf, spreading, and devastating wildlife.

In addition, on August 19, the journal Science published a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) study, confirming a giant oil plume floating about 1,200 meters below the surface - 35 km-long (22 miles), two km wide, and 200 meters thick. Persisting "for months without substantial biodegradation," it poses a serious threat to sea life, one of the article's writers, Dr. Chris Reddy, saying, "At this point, we know the plume exists, and we know more about its potential biological activity in the future" and harm it can cause.

It'll be years before the full extent of damage is known. However, it's already extensive and extremely dangerous, containing 50 micrograms per liter of "a group of particularly toxic petroleum compounds," 6 - 7% of it a deadly benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene cocktail - released from BP's Macondo well, the evidence clearly showing it according to research team head Richard Camilli.

He expects the plume to spread and biodegrade very slowly in cold waters. In addition, other independent researchers discovered other even larger plumes. University of Georgia Marine Sciences Professor Samantha (Mandy) B. Joye said the WHOI plume "doesn't hold a candle" to one her team found in May. Nonetheless, BP and Obama officials signaled an all-clear, denying their existence and the catastrophic disaster, out of sight and mind instead of dealing with it responsibly.

It's why on August 23, the Union of Concerned Scientists alerted members and supporters to "Help end America's dangerous addiction to oil," saying for decades it's warned about the US's "misguided energy and transportation policies (instead of) promoting innovative solutions to reduce our dependence on oil. (The Gulf disaster) is a painful reminder of the work" left to be done and urgency of doing it.

On August 20, Kieran Suckling, Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director headlined his press release, "Gulf of Mexico Still in Crisis Four Months After BP Explosion: Center for Biological Diversity Tour Finds Oiled Beaches, Water and Wildlife....Drilling Policy Reforms Still Too Weak, Too Late," saying:

The Center's team saw "firsthand how oil is still killing wildlife and fouling beaches and marshes. This crisis is far from over." Grand Isle, LA beaches were contaminated with oil, liquid surface pools and more mixed with sand in hardened mats along the water's edge.

"Some beaches appear fine from a distance but are actually sitting atop massive amounts of oil, which bubbled to the surface when the team walked across the sand. Digging into (it) with rubber gloves," oil was found six inches below the surface. Crabs and birds are covered with it as they cross beaches or marsh land. "Fish and sea turtles are forced to swim through oil on the surface and below," looking for food. "In short, (the Gulf) is still an oily mess despite rosy assertions" by BP and Obama officials, claiming most oil is gone. They know damn well it's there to stay, poisoning everything it touches.

The Center's survey supports independent scientists saying most remains, fouling beaches, waters, marshes and wildlife. Working for reform and serious remediation, Center officials filed seven lawsuits against BP and government regulators, including "the largest Clean Water Act suit in history," seeking $19 billion in fines from BP. More on their likely resolution below.

Firsthand Reports from the Gulf

Reporting from the area, investigative journalist Dahr Jamail calls Grand Isle, LA's condition "post-apocalytic," spotting "tar balls that bob lazily underwater, amidst sand ripples in the shallows....Oil-soaked marsh abounds....the island smell(ing) like a gas station. Noxious fumes infiltrate my nose, causing me to cough. Piles of oiled oysters rest on the tide line."

Tar balls are everywhere. "In some places, there are literally huge mats of fresh tar....The scene is apocalyptic....It is one of the more disgusting, vile scenes I've even seen....All we can do is take photos. The stench is overpowering. I gag. My eyes water from the burning chemicals....I feel dizzy." The entire Gulf Coast has been raped and destroyed. Official coverup is criminal.

Only time will assess the full damage on humans and wildlife. However, the toll already is devastating, the Obama administration complicit with BP, culpable for a crime they want suppressed, ignored and forgotten, what will affect the lives of millions perhaps forever.

According to Florida State University ocean scientist Ian MacDonald: "The (disaster's) imprint will be there in the Gulf of Mexico for the rest of my life. It is not gone," and won't ever "go away quickly," warning of a potential tipping point beyond which wildlife and the ecosystem won't recover, the crossed Rubicon after which return no longer is possible, a shocking assessment perhaps already true.

JAMA Reports Direct Threats to Human Health

In its August 16 edition, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) writers Drs. Gina M. Solomon and Sarah Janssen headlined, "Health Effects of the Gulf Oil Spill," saying "it (and dispersants pose) direct threats to human health from inhalation or dermal contact," besides harming seafood and mental health.

Solomon and Janssen explained that crude oil's main components are "aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons." Containing volatile organic compounds (including benezene, toluene and xylene), they "can cause respiratory irritation and central nervous system (CNS) depression."

Benzene also causes leukemia, and toluene "is a recognized teratogen (causing embryo malformation) at high doses." Naphthalene and other higher molecular weight chemicals are "reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans...."

Released hydrogen sulfide gas, nonvolatile polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and heavy metals from oil "can contaminate the food chain. Hydrogen sulfide gas is neurotoxic and has been linked to both acute and chronic CNS (central nervous system) effects. PAHs include mutagens and probable carcinogens. Burning oil generates particulate matter, which is associated with cardiac and respiratory symptoms and premature mortality."

Massive dispersants use greatly exacerbates the problem. They contain toxic detergents, surfactants and petroleum distillates, including known respiratory irritants like 2-butoxyethanol, propylene glycol, and sulfonic acid salts.

As a result, area residents and cleanup workers experienced headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, coughs, respiratory distress, chest pain, and other symptoms - warning signs of potentially greater future health problems.

"Skin contact with oil and dispersants causes defatting, resulting in dermatitis and secondary skin infections. Some individuals may develop a dermal hypersensitivity reaction, erythema (injured or irritated skin), edema, burning sensations, or a follicular rash."

Potential long-term health risks are high, wildlife contamination making anyone eating Gulf seafood vulnerable. "Community residents should not fish" in oil-contaminated areas, nor should federal, state or local officials allow them.

Some Final Comments

On August 20, New York Times writer Ian Urbina headlined, "BP Settlements Likely to Shield Top Defendants," saying:

"People and businesses seeking a lump-sum settlement from BP's $20 billion oil spill compensation fund will most likely have to waive their right to sue not only BP, but also all the other major defendants involved with the spill, according to internal documents from the lawyers handling the fund."

In other words, the fix is in, Obama and BP officials conspiring to let responsible parties off the hook, settlement terms designed to deny victims just compensation and for many, perhaps most, none at all, given the strict guidelines of eligibility required.

Claims czar Kenneth Feinberg is a notorious "fixer," mandated to save BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and blowout preventer maker Cameron International potentially tens of billions in liabilities, strong-arming victims to waive their right to sue in return for amounts too meager to matter.

According to Urbina, the dilemma for those suing is deciding between "years of litigation (or) accept(ing) the (offered) settlement....before the full (extent of) damage" is known. Most important is that "those who cannot demonstrate damages caused by the direct impact of oil on beaches and fisheries will be ineligible for money."

For example, small businesses, not located directly on affected beaches, experiencing sharp revenue drops "will not be able to receive compensation...." in violation of the federal Oil Pollution Act that excludes geographical limitations. The same holds for area residents living away from the shoreline.

Property owners who've seen sharp valuations drops, will also be cheated. So will cleanup workers and area residents later contracting diseases, mental illness, lost income, or other harmful effects.

As point man, Feinberg will deny, obstruct, and let criminal defendants off the hook, then (on BP's payroll) be handsomely paid for his services, the same ones he performed earlier for Wall Street banks, Agent Orange producers, asbestos manufacturers, and Dalkon Shield maker AH Robins as well as against 9/11 victims.

Only corporate interests matter, not people whose lives they destroy, Obama officials doing nothing to help them - instead being complicit partners in the greatest ever environmental crime, whitewashing it by giving the all-clear, declaring "mission accomplished," and protecting corporate criminals at all costs.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

The first link, further below, is for an important interview of roughly 9 minutes with primarily Dahr Jamail, who's now spent around a month doing investigative reporting on the crisis in the Gulf, and there are a few words from an American scientist. Part of what we learn from this interview is about the crabs, fish, dolphins, et cetera, coming to shore, on to shore in the middle of the day for crabs, due to needing oxygen and trying to find enough to survive.

A scientist is briefly interviewed in this video and I didn't catch his name due to a distraction, but he's the person interviewed in the second video. He's Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer from Flordia State University, and he's been measuring oil spills, or this one in the Gulf anyway.

"Fishing Industry in Gulf Still Worried About Levels of Toxins in the Water and the Impact on Marine Life"

The Obama administration announced last week that it is safe to eat fish and shrimp caught in the 78 percent of federal waters in the Gulf that are now reopened to fishing. But many are still concerned about the levels of toxins in the water and the impact on marine life. Independent journalist Dahr Jamail has been reporting from the Gulf Coast for over a month now. Last week he spoke to some commercial fishermen in Mississippi who are refusing to trawl because of the oil and dispersants that are still in the water.

They're not only concerned; they can and really must [not] shrimp and fish. The waters are extremely contaminated, there's evidently little that's still living in the waters, and Dahr Jamail says that the situation now is worse than he's seen so far during his month on the coast. He says four states are badly affected and I think to have understood that these are Miss., La., Alabama and Fla.

The next video of around 20 minutes long is with Ian MacDonald and actually precedes the above part with Dahr Jamail. (I'm just posting the links in the order that I got them, but while both are good and important.) Ian MacDonald says that he doesn't believe that there was actual cover-up by the NOAA and government, but I think that while that may've been initially true, it either surely or else probably hasn't been true all of this time.

"Scientist Accuses Obama Administration and BP of Underestimating Amount of Oil Left in Gulf of Mexico"

New evidence has badly shaken the Obama administration’s rosy narrative about the alleged disappearance of most of the oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s blown-out well. Early this month a report by government scientists declared that three-quarters of the oil had vanished, either collected or dispersed. But numerous reports contradict the administration’s sanguine picture of the cleanup effort. We speak to Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer and expert on measuring oil spills from Florida State University. He testified at a congressional hearing last week and said the actual amount of oil removed from the Gulf is only around ten percent and predicted the spill will likely remain harmful for decades.

Also see the following websites. There might be other good websites, but these two provide daily or nearly daily updates; while the second one certainly seemed to have more recent updates than the first one did last night. (I believe that Alexander Higgins is the person who has articles at and which only provide "Alex" for author.)

The article a little further below provides a link to what I believe to be the IPS article that Stephen Lendman referred to in his above article and if it is, then the IPS piece is of August 20th, is by Dahr Jamail, and is entitled, "Mississippi Shrimpers Refuse to Trawl, Fearing Oil, Dispersants".

This next article also provides brief excerpts from articles by AP, The Post Chronicle, The Advocate-Messenger, as well as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The links for the full articles are provided.

"Portions of the Gulf are So Toxic that Dolphins, Fish, Crabs, Stingrays and Other Animals are "Trying to Crawl Out of the Water""

by Washington's Blog, Aug. 23, 2010

If people read when some wrote about this disaster being apocalyptic months ago and doubted this or that view, then no one has cause for such doubts any longer.

Ian MacDonald and cover-up:

As stated in my above post for the DN! interview with him on August 23rd, he said that he doesn't believe there was real cover-up and I said that maybe this was at first true, but cover-up surely started at some point. After having now finished reading the above article by Stephen Lendman, I can only feel more strongly certain that there's definitely cover-up. There has to be.

There are probably mistakes, without meaning to refer to the deliberate cover-up; but there also has to be intentional cover-up with some or else many government officials knowingly involved in this crime.

I appreciate everything or most everything else Ian MacDonald said in the DN! interview, but really wonder why he says that he believes that there isn't real and, therefore, criminal cover-up involved. Perhaps he just doesn't want to believe that the government could or would do this, but why wouldn't it? Pretty much all we've gotten from the government for the past decade is an endless stream of lies; some occasional and rather insignificant truths, combined with many lies of extremely criminal kind. Those lies didn't happen without it having been intentional. Some government officials deliberately fabricated the lies.

I think he is probably right about the NOAA, initially, and the NOAA has now provided a statement correcting its prior false claim; but other government officials are evidently or clearly complicit in deliberate acts to try to cover up the facts. There's evidently no reason to doubt that, for government officials are clearly complicit in the injustices being committed against Gulf coast state residents and business people in order to financially protect BP.

And from what I've read, it may become more than the residents and business people of the Gulf coast states who'll be seriously affected. One or two articles that I read some weeks ago reported that it's possible that hurricanes could cause this extremely toxic pollution to be carried with rains such that many East Coast states, or the eastern half of the country, can potentially become contaminated, poisoned.

BP should be required to compensate everyone who is presently affected and everyone who becomes affected, without any geographical limitations. And BP should be required to pay for the clean-up costs, those accumulated, so far, and future ones; without any geographical limitations.

This should be required of all companies that toxically poison the environment and human populations.

I've been spending considerable time looking for an article by Prof. Joye saying what Stephen Lendman says that she said. This lead to learning of Gulf Oil Blog,, where Prof. Joye apparently is the blog editor, and there are articles about plumes in the Gulf in the blog, but an article saying that WHOI's "plume doesn't hold a candle"" is not found in the first page of the blog. So I did a Web search and there are plenty of articles that refer to her having said this, and the following is one of these articles.

"Report Paints New Picture of Gulf Oil"

by Richard A. Kerr, Aug. 19, 2010


Oceanographers from the ... (WHOI) ... surveyed the gulf around the BP well ... from 19 to 28 June, a period of heavy flow. ...

The first thing that the researchers noticed was that the plume wasn't quite as “massive” as many news reports had made out. The plume surveyed by Endeavor was only 200 meters thick and about 2 kilometers wide. ...


On the microbe front, the WHOI team also found differences. A report released last week by a group of federal agencies led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated — without documentation — that early signs show the oil is “biodegrading quickly.” Not so in the southwest plume in late June, the WHOI researchers found. ...

Despite the new findings, oceanographers don't yet have a complete picture of subsurface oil. The mass of oil in the southwest plume surveyed in late June “doesn’t hold a candle to the plume we saw” to the southwest in May, says biogeochemist Samantha Joye of .... And then there’s the plume to the northeast, toward the Florida panhandle. In a close-in survey, the WHOI group found it to be the lesser of the two plumes. But Joye says that at other times researchers have found the northeast plume to be five times as massive. And this week, researchers from the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg led by chemical oceanographer David Hollander announced the first observation of oil droplets from a plume settling to the bottom of the gulf. Apparently, the northeast plume was massive enough to lay down a carpet of oil droplets off of West Florida.

The article is followed by a link to a Gulf oil spill index.

The above article says that WHOI described the plume as only 2km wide and not "like an underwater oil slick", but the Science article of the same date for the WHOI report is the following one and it states the dimensions Stephen Lendman stated.

"Tracking Hydrocarbon Plume Transport and Biodegradation at Deepwater Horizon"

It's a report by several WHOI scientists, as well as a scientist from or in Australia and James V. Maloney of "Monitor Instruments Company LLC, Cheswick, PA".

The Deepwater Horizon blowout is the largest offshore oil spill in history. We present results from a subsurface hydrocarbon survey using an autonomous underwater vehicle and a ship-cabled sampler. Our findings indicate the presence of a continuous plume over 35 km in length, at approximately 1100 m depth that persisted for months without substantial biodegradation. Samples collected from within the plume reveal monoaromatic petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations in excess of 50 µg L–1. These data indicate that monoaromatic input to this plume was at least 5500 kg day–1, which is more than double the total source rate of all natural seeps of the monoaromatic petroleum hydrocarbons in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Dissolved oxygen concentrations suggest that microbial respiration rates within the plume were not appreciably more than 1 µM O2 day–1.


Received for publication 16 July 2010.
Accepted for publication 13 August 2010.

That report doesn't report a change in the width of the plume, so I guess it was still estimated to be 2km wide when the above report was written on July 16th or earlier. But I doubt that they'd still say that the plume wasn't or isn't "like an underwater oil slick". 35km by 2km certainly seems to deserve to be called "like an ... oil slick" to me.

Two of the co-authors of the above report at Science Mag. are Chris Reddy and Richard Camilli, both of whom Stephen Lendman cited. The following NPR article cites both them and also provides a link for listening to the story. I found this in the or any August 20th entry entitled, "Science: Large oil spill plume under water", in following blog.

"Giant Oil Plume Found Below Surface Of Gulf"

by Dan Charles, Aug. 20, 2010


Christopher Reddy, a co-author of the study released Thursday by the journal Science, says it was a big surprise when scientists first reported that large amounts of oil and oil compounds were staying underwater rather than rising to the surface.


Richard Camilli, another researcher from WHOI, says they then sent down a new device — a small unmanned submarine called Sentry.

"We had Sentry fly at a constant depth in kind of a zigzag pattern, moving out from the well site, tracking the plume," he said.

The hydrocarbons, including benzene and toluene, were highly diluted in the water. They were coming from the gushing well, but they weren't spreading out in all directions. Instead, they followed an invisible underwater channel just over a mile wide and 650 feet thick. The researchers tracked that channel southwest for 22 miles, until bad weather forced them to stop.

They looked for signs that microorganisms are feasting on those petroleum products and breaking them down, but they didn't see any. Reddy says they don't know exactly why.


There are many other unknowns. Reddy and his colleagues don't yet know how much of the oil from the well is in this plume. They hope to arrive at an estimate in a few months, after analyzing all of their water samples. They also don't know how toxic the plume may be to wildlife.

Yet this is the best-documented case so far of oil flowing underwater.

The article then briefly cites Steven Murawski, "science adviser for fisheries at the" NOAA, about the above being "a big piece of the puzzle" and that he wants research expanded.

Re. "how much of the oil from the well is in this plume":

Prof. Joye has a number of blog entries describing that plumes tested by the research team she was with definitely had quite a bit of oil in them. They might not have been able to estimate how much oil there is in the plumes, but it's evidently a lot; based on what she wrote.


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