Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

How Hurricane Isaac Stirred Up Oil From the BP Spill

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

A boat overturned by Hurricane Isaac floats in lower Plaquemines Parish on September 2, 2012 in Buras, Louisiana.

Tar balls and oil from the BP spill in 2010 are washing up again on the shores of Louisiana. Hurricane Issac, which stirred up intense winds and dumped over a foot of rain in some parts of the state, has also disturbed some deposits that hadn’t been cleaned up after spill.

More than two years ago, an explosion at the BP Deepwater Horizon resulted in the largest accidental oil spill in history. Eleven people were killed in the explosion, and more than two hundred million gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.

During the last week, oil from that spill has started making a second appearance, causing the state of Louisiana to close a 12-mile section of coastline southeast of New Orleans. Tests have confirmed that the oil washing ashore is indeed the same oil that leaked during the BP oil spill.

The Times-Picayunne has more on what’s behind the resurgence:

Oil from that event often mixed with sand as it neared the coast and sank to the silty floor of the nearshore Gulf. But heavy weather has regularly dredged it up from the soft bottom, where waves carry it to the beach and even push it inside the marsh. The persistence of the oil has kept clean-up crews working along the coast since the April 2010 spill.

While the most toxic parts of raw oil quickly dissipate, the tar mats, tar balls and viscous sludge that reappear after storms remain a threat to fish, wildlife and humans, state authorities said. They can contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known carcinogens that can also disrupt endocrine systems in both humans and wildlife.

Garret Graves, an aide to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, tells the Associated Press that he thinks BP should be doing more to clean up. “If they would put just a fraction of the dollars they’re putting into their PR campaign into cleanup, we’d certainly be much farther ahead than we are now,” he says.

BP says they’ve spent $14 billion on “supporting the cleanup process,” according to their website, but it isn’t clear how much of that was spent on advertising. The AP pegs it at “millions of dollars.”

Greenpeace has photos of the oil washing up on shore again.

Read more: The BP Blowout, 2 Years Later


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