Swimming in (poisoned) Gulf Waters
by Elizabeth Cook
Monday, Dec. 06, 2010 at 9:06 PM
The complicity between our government and BP in the continued use of Corexit to sink and hide the oil has led to the death of our Gulf coastal ecosystem and hundreds, if not thousands of folks falling ill on the Gulf coast.
It's a nervous Sasha being held by President Obama in a back bay, Alligator Bay, in Panama City, on August 14th. Obama, beaming with reassurance with a wide smile, leads his not so sure daughter into a surf-less back bay, and uncharted waters: just where is the oil and dispersant, and how much has the government and BP continued spraying of the Corexit.
That Obama would use his daughter in that manner to earn political points is reprehensible. Using her to swim in a back bay, away from the direct spill impacts, then encouraging others to swim in gulf waters, and eat seafood from gulf waters, waters he wasn't willing to take his daughter into, is equally reprehensible.
What is of equal concern is that the President of the United States doesn't seem to understand the rain cycle. Various independent testing has shown the elevated toxic metal levels in our rain water since the Gulf oil disaster; toxic rainwater no doubt impacting those bodies of water and land near the Gulf coast. It is quite likely that he and his daughter were indeed swimming in waters impacted by the oil disaster indirectly.
That swim event was a new low for the Obama administration, in a season of lows since the spill began. Even as the Obama administration has revamped the Deepwater Horizon website, now dubbing the site RestoreTheGulf.gov, the continued and deliberate poisoning of the Gulf waters continues. Activists, fishermen and women, and residents, even in recent weeks, continue to document the use of Corexit in coastal waters. Hundreds, possibly thousands of residents and activists are falling ill from exposure to toxic chemicals on the Gulf coast.
“Now I have a bruising rash all around my stomach,” Denise Rednour of Long Beach, Mississippi told IPS. “This looks like bleeding under the skin.”
Rednour lives near the coast and has been walking on the beach nearly every day since a BP oil rig exploded on Apr. 20. She has noticed a dramatically lower number of wildlife, and said that many days the smell of chemicals from what she believes are BP’s toxic dispersants fill the air.
My husband shook the nets and water went on me. I didn't have a menstrual period for four months. I had rash, itching irritated skin, something similar to bronchitis which I've never had. It lasted for three or four months. Eye irritations, heart pains, heart palpitations, involuntary muscles jumping all over my body, and continuous headaches day and night…all I would get is a about a 15 minute to a 20 minute break from pain relievers that are specifically designed to get rid of headaches, that’s the only break I would get. And I had to eat those 24 hours a day, seven days a week for three to four months… And they want to tell me to eat the seafood? Why don’t they eat the seafood. I’ll go catch them and I’ll throw BP a big old boil….I’m not eating it.
I met Denise Rednour in Pensacola recently, for the first meeting of the presidentially appointed Restoration Task Force, chaired by Lisa Jackson, director of the EPA. Denise lives just a few blocks off of the beach in Long Beach, Mississippi. There were lots of reasons to disrupt that meeting, but we disrupted that day because there were no representatives from the Center for Disease Control; no one there to address the thousands of health concerns of Gulf coast residents. Denise has her own health concerns, as noted above. She lifted her shirt and showed me her belly; it looked like the traces of worms that they leave when eating into soft rock. Squiggly lines that were broken blood vessels, numerous and thick. Corexit does its job: it breaks down the internal molecular integrity of whatever it comes in contact with.
Nalco sold $70 million worth of Corexit by the end of its second quarter at the end of July. How much Corexit that is is anybody's guess. How much has been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico is anybody's guess as well. The U.S. Coast Guard says BP stopped using Corexit on or around July 19th. Residents of the Gulf coast know otherwise.
Project Gulf Impact has been a vibrant presence on the Gulf coast, utilizing video to document everything, including the continued use of Corexit after the supposed ending date. You might say that they developed a personal stake in this, after being sickened with Corexit/Gulf waters spray during a thunderstorm on a boat in the Gulf in September, and hospitalized.
Numerous and various independent stories on the dangers of eating seafood, and gulf residents' health issues, some reaching local media, have been surfacing, and can be found collected with links on the web site www.floridaoilspilllaw.com. Independent testing of blood and seafood reveals ongoing dangerous levels of contaminants.
RestoretheGulf.gov, now ground zero for the government's propaganda war on the people and ecosystem of the Gulf coast, were, over a month ago, flashing various quotes from public officials and fishermen. Those quotes though, have recently disappeared, to be replaced by a deliberate distancing from encouraging folks to visit the Gulf coast. A month ago, the propaganda was more obvious. Consider this statement I found on the site a little over a month ago that is now no longer there:
"Travel and Tourism Find resources here to help you plan your visit to the Gulf. The federal government has compiled beach and coastal condition reports to properly inform travelers as they select their Gulf Coast destinations."
Now links to travel resources are provided with a disclaimer:
This page serves as a portal to information that may be helpful in planning visits to the Gulf.
It includes links to general information on Gulf tourism as developed by the states themselves, as well as links to state-publicized information on beach and coastal conditions to properly inform travelers as they select their Gulf coast destinations.
The federal government has compiled this information to help provide accurate information to potential travelers and is not responsible for the content of the state sites.
Is the government sensing disaster in it's, and BP's handling of the oil disaster? Nevertheless, BP is certainly not being discouraged from paying off state governments with huge sums of money to lure gullible tourists back to the coast, and seafood lovers back to Gulf seafood.
BP PLC has agreed to spend $78 million to test and promote Louisiana seafood, and boost tourism in the state, helping two industries hit hard by the Deepwater Horizon disaster...BP has paid out $87 million to Gulf Coast states for tourism promotion, and has so far committed to an additional $30 million to Louisiana. The company has also promised $68 million to Louisiana and Florida for seafood testing and product marketing.
In the meantime, independent testing continues to demonstrate what many of the local, fishermen and shrimpers already know: The seafood isn't safe to eat.
Shrimp tissue samples from St. Bernard Parish, LA contained 8,356 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons and one PAH (0.017 mg/kg). Flounder and Speckle Trout from St. Bernard Parish, LA contained 21,575 mg/kg (2.16%) Petroleum Hydrocarbons. A sample of fish collected from St. Bernard Parish, LA contained 11,791 mg/kg (1.18%) Petroleum Hydrocarbons and one PAH (0.013 mg/kg). Another fish sample contained 6,028 mg/kg Petroleum Hydrocarbons.
And here...more testing on whole shrimp, rather than just the digestive track as NOAA and the FDA are testin. Seafood lovers on the Gulf coast boil and broil their seafood whole. They don't necessarily peal and devein the shrimp, for example:
Fish and shrimp that are bottom-dwellers are still at high risk for oil contamination; however, officials are saying they are safe to eat. But Nancy "Mac" Mackenzie of the NOLA Emergency Response Team thinks otherwise; therefore, she went and bought some shrimp out of Venice, La and had them tested. Mac had found out that the shrimp and other seafood were being tested with the shells off and the veins out, which most people cook shrimp with the shells on and the veins in. The shrimp she had tested with the veins in came back with 193 ppm of hydrocarbons in them, which is over toxic. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are cancer-causing chemicals found in crude oil that can accumulate in the food chain, absorbed by fish and shellfish.
The independent seafood testing continues.
And there are a few remaining independent scientists not afraid to speak their mind, particularly as the FDA raised the allowable levels of hydrocarbons in our seafood for this oil spill:
“These chemicals, these are PAHs that are carcinogenic. … These items are not in any way appropriate for anyone to eat,“ said Ed Cake, an environmental consultant from Ocean Springs. “There’s no low-dose level that’s acceptable to eat.“
William Sawyer, a Florida-based toxicologist, said the current FDA protocol allows much higher concentrations of PAHs than the government used for the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and other previous oil spills. He said some shrimp caught off the coast of Florida and privately tested had toxins that were at 40 percent of the FDA’s level of concern.
Applying the same analysis but using the old levels, he said, those shrimp “would be in violation and wouldn’t be on the market.“
Seafood wholesalers, shrimpers and fishermen are walking tightropes right now. They are in a Catch 22 of the government and BP's making: the government is saying the seafood is safe, yet the independent testing shows otherwise. Demand for Gulf seafood is down. I was told by Clint Guidry, Secretary of the Louisiana Shrimpers Association that they may ask the government to subsidize shrimp prices due to decreased demand. Guidry has been an outspoken opponent of the use of Corexit, yet he maintains the shrimp is safe...for now. The contradictions are numerous and plentiful on the Gulf coast. The Orwellian situations our people are contending with are numerous.
BP settlements are slow in coming as the process grinds down, and families are growing desperate. Some believe this is deliberate. Kenneth Feinberg, appointed by Obama to the tune of $850,000 for he and his firm to negotiate settlements, is no independent arbiter as he has stated. That salary is paid by BP.
Earlier this month, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) called Feinberg's claims process "extortion," and outgoing Alabama Attorney General Troy King issued a "consumer alert" warning people that Feinberg "works for BP." Feinberg was named by President Obama, though BP is paying him and four other lawyers at his firm $850,000 a month to run the fund.
I am your lawyer", Feinberg told Gulf residents back in August. The trust, however, is breaking down. Some residents believe BP is trying to "starve us out" and force residents to take settlements, before knowing what the long term damages of the spill are.
Tourists and residents of the coast are swimming in waters and walking on beaches on which tar balls continue to wash up, waters state and local governments won't close because of economic pressures. These coastal waters are uncharted territory. The public should be demanding daily and ongoing testing of these waters and beaches, before dipping a toe into either. Yet sunbathers, beach walkers and swimmers (in warmer weather) are found on beaches where workers are cleaning up tar balls, or where tar balls were recently removed, or where oil is now buried in the sand.
Clearly, the government's approach to downplay the presence and impact of the oil is having its desired effect on a populace unwilling to do their own homework. For those that are researching, writing independently and posting reports, daily monitoring of the gulf has become a personal necessity and mission.
Consider Lorrie, a crabber from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She has shared a video of what she has dubbed "blood beach": oil continually oozing up from beneath the sand, dispersant moving into back bays. Here is her video:
Consider the testimony of these shrimper as he describes coastal waters made sterile from the use of Corexit:
Consider the aggressive attempts by the Obama administration, the FDA, NOAA and state and local governments, to market Gulf seafood to the country. Even while independent researchers cast doubt as to where the remaining oil is located, cast doubt over the assertion that most of the oil is gone, which NOAA later retracted to a degree, Lubchenco and company continue to reopen federal gulf fishing waters.
"It looks like everything's dead," University of Georgia professor Samantha Joye said.
In an exclusive trip aboard the U.S. Navy's deep-ocean research submersible Alvin, ABC News was given the chance to observe the impact of this summer's massive oil spill that most will never see.
The ocean floor appears to be littered with twigs, but Joye points out that they are actually dead worms and that Alvin is sitting on top of what is considered an 80-square mile kill zone....
...But 5,000 feet down, the oil appears to be everywhere. The government estimates that less than 25 percent of the oil remains, but these scientists say it's not gone, just settled at the bottom of the ocean.
Consider that just recently an activist on the Gulf coast in Louisiana happened upon empty Corexit containers next to barges, in a local BP headquarters. You can view those photos here:
Consider that reports continue to come in that Corexit is still being used. Here is one report from Apalachicola, Florida:
Taunya James, president of the Franklin County Seafood Workers’ Association (FCSWA), repeatedly insisted dispersant was being applied to the bay daily by helicopters described as black or camouflage in color. She and other seafood workers claimed to be aware of serious local contamination.
Consider that BP has bought off the Gulf states with massive amounts of money for Louisiana, for example, $78 million, for the marketing of seafood...and tourism. As oil continues to stain our wetlands, Bobby Jindal and the powerful tourism and seafood industry in this state are banking on luring customers for our seafood, and gullible tourists to our coastal waters.
My source was correct in that there are miles long stretches of beach that are caked with huge mats of oil. There are enormous mats of tar that stretch from the shore to the water. In some spots, the tide covers the mats as it washes in only to reveal them as it washes back out. In other areas, the mats are so huge that they stretch from the sea bed all the way to the beach. It’s impossible to tell how far out underwater they stretch. There are areas where you think you are standing on sand or mud only to realize that you are standing on huge blankets of weathered oil. There are tidal pools in the middle of the island that are filled with oil. The smell of oil is everywhere. Skulls and bones from dead birds and fish litter the sand and coyote tracks are all around. What a pity.
Consider that BP, with virtually unlimited resources, has paid $7 million to the powerful real estate industry in Alabama, for example. BP knows what industries to target to satisfy the wealthy elite and keep 'em quiet. The $93 million that BP has poured into advertising, as of September 1st, since the Gulf spill apparently has been enough to silence the corporate television and print media, for the most part. We here on the Gulf coast have been sold out cheaply and blatantly for just a few million in various corporate media coffers.
Consider that BP has made tremendou$ effort$ to corral scientists and researchers in our universities by doling out...again...a few million that has been used to silence those same researchers: they are required to sign a gag order for three years for the privilege of doing tainted research.
Janet Lubchenco, Director of NOAA, is a clever woman, if not transparent in her obfuscation. In one transcript, she can be heard to say they are still tracking the fate of the oil and dispersant:
"And we’ll continue where needed to allow us to answer the question what is the fate of the oil and the dispersants in the subsurface? So this monitoring effort is an aggressive one to be conducted as an integrated strategic plot working closely with states, academic, and private research institution partners."
On the other hand, in the same transcript, she expresses a great deal of confidence in decisions to reopen some fishing waters. On the other hand, they are still figuring how and where to track the oil.
"There continues to be a very small amount of residual oil in the near shore. And that is both being degraded naturally as well as being recovered."
So, while "working" to answer the question of "what is the fate of the oil and the dispersants", Lubchenco saw fit to reopen Gulf federal waters to fishing and declare seafood safe. This backfired recently when a shrimper trawling for red shrimp pulled up a net of oiled shrimp, and over 4000 miles of federal waters had to be closed again.
The data and research, as detailed in this Raw Story, used by Lubchenco to test Gulf seafood and reopen Gulf waters has been widely criticized by independent researchers and scientists as secretive and ambiguous. The issue of how buffer zones were created, between closed and opened waters, is less than transparent. The data provided on seafood tested has been less than transparent. The protocol followed regarding the reopening of state waters has been under fire as inconsistent and ambiguous. If independent testing of seafood were not raising any causes for concern, none of this would matter, would it?
Yet in wide-ranging interviews with Raw Story, multiple independent scientists involved in studying the effects of the Gulf oil spill not only revealed that government claims of sufficient transparency are wholly misleading, but they also provided several key examples of how withholding this information precludes independent evaluation and opens a raft of critical unanswered questions.
Raw Story's investigation also found that federal officials continue to publicly claim (as they as did as well in our interviews) that Gulf states follow the agreed-upon protocol set by NOAA and FDA for the reopening of previously closed waters.
But scientists in close discussions with these agencies informed Raw Story that the Gulf states are actually making their decisions for reopening waters on a case-by-case basis with no consistent set criteria -- making the basis for state reopenings of previously closed waters an even greater unknown for independent scientists.
There is the Florida toxicologist, William Sawyer, that has been a thorn in the side of NOAA and the FDA, with his recent statements regarding the levels of PAHs found in seafood by NOAA.
But Sawyer, the Florida toxicologist, said the government tests do not look for total petroleum hydrocarbons in the seafood. He said his tests of Gulf shrimp have shown unsafe levels of the compounds, which can cause liver or kidney damage in a matter of weeks.
FDA scientist Bob Dickey in that same article questions Sawyer's testing methods.
What is the truth here?
The illnesses showing up on the Gulf coast represent an ecosystem turning on its residents. The handling of the spill and its aftermath has been criminal. How high up does the criminality go? To the White House, in my view. Recently, in testimony to a Congressional committee, Lubchenco denied that the White House had consulted with them to any great degree on the expansion of offshore drilling. You can feel Lubchenco draw the line: I'm covering for you politically on the spill, in a big way that has my ass in hot water, but I won't take responsibility for Salazar/Obama's decision to allow the expansion of offshore drilling.
Have orders been coming from the White House to cover this tragedy up, by allowing BP to continue to use Corexit to sink the oil, even if it means the further poisoning of the ecosystem, the people of the Gulf coast, and people who may be eating Gulf seafood caught from impacted waters?
These are criminal, impeachable offenses, and amount to a covert war on the truth on the Gulf coast, her people and ecosystems.
Impeachment, resignation and criminal prosecution, not necessarily in that order, should be a growing rallying cry.
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