Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Still Spilling After Nearly a Decade
The 2013 hurricane season is now upon us, and it's predicted to be a doozy this year. Which got us to thinking ... Remember that strange, persistent little oil slick about 12 miles offshore that SkyTruth discovered on satellite imagery during the BP oil spill in 2010, that was not related to BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster?
Oil slick at the Taylor Energy chronic leak site in Gulf of Mexico, June 5, 2010.
When we published this, an interesting story emerged: We had found a chronic, continuous oil spill in the Gulf emanating from oil wells that were serviced by a platform at this location. "Platform 23051," as we called it (because that's how it was identified by government data), no longer existed. It had been hit by a seafloor mudslide triggered by Hurricane Ivan way back in September 2004. That's right, six years earlier. And the damaged wells, now buried under the mud, were being slowly found, re-entered and plugged with cement by their owner—an LLC named Taylor Energy Company—using a leased drill rig called the Ocean Saratoga.
The rig disappeared for a while, then re-appeared in November 2010. It was still on the scene in March 2011, when Greenpeace flew over the site and took some photos. But we had indications from the Automatic Identification System vessel-tracking data that the rig had departed by June 2011. Periodic aerial overflights conducted by Gulf Monitoring Consortium and On Wings of Care, and radar satellite images acquired since June 2011, have shown no rig working to plug the wells since Ocean Saratoga's departure. The May 2013 status report from Diamond Offshore shows the rig is contracted to work elsewhere.
One thing, however, has remained constant at the site: It's still leaking oil and forming a persistent, miles-long slick that is routinely visible on satellite images. Occasionally it reaches out more than 20 miles from the source.
Taylor is required to report the size and location of their oil slick to the Coast Guard's National Response Center (NRC) on a daily basis. We've compiled all of their reports, as well as our own observations from overflights and satellite imagery. What we see on satellite images consistently contradicts Taylor's own reports, suggesting they are systematically and significantly underreporting the size of the slick. And our analysis shows that the total spill from the Taylor site may have exceeded 1 million gallons by February 2012.
In 2013, the satellite experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began to report their analyses of the Taylor slick to the NRC as well (the first report we noticed from NOAA came on April 7). They, too, are reporting slicks significantly bigger than what Taylor is reporting. The latest example: On June 1 at 9:00 a.m., Taylor reported a slick 200 feet wide and 6.5 miles long. But NOAA reported a slick one mile wide and 20.2 miles long on a satellite image taken at 11:45 a.m., less than three hours later. NOAA's slick is more than 80 times bigger than what Taylor reported. And if we assume the slick is, on average, only 1/1000th of a millimeter (1 micron) thick, that amounts to at least 13,800 gallons of oil on the water. Yet the federal government has publicly stated that the leaking wells cumulatively spill only about 14 gallons per day.
We assume NOAA analysts were looking at this MODIS/Terra satellite image taken at 11:45 a.m. local time on June 1. We measure the observable slick to be 21.4 miles long, reaching a maximum width of just over 5,100 feet but tapering to less than 1,500 feet at each end. Still, it is significantly bigger than Taylor reported:
Detail from MODIS/Terra satellite image taken at 11:45 a.m. on June 1, showing slick (bright line) apparently emanating from site of chronic leak since 2004.
Measurement shows slick extends more than 21 miles from the source.
Something's fishy here. But no matter whose numbers you believe, one nagging question is begging to be answered: When are these wells going to be permanently plugged? As time goes by, it looks like the answer is: Never—we're going to let them leak until the reservoir effectively bleeds out. How can this be acceptable to federal government regulators and the politicians of Louisiana?
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By Kristen Fischer
It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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By Eoin Higgins
Over 300 groups on Monday urged Senate leadership to reject a bill currently under consideration that would incentivize communities to sell off their public water supplies to private companies for pennies on the dollar.
<div id="fea63" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a6f211c2bc5aedd34837944cb8eeedf"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1281000111481294849" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Water in Illinois is overwhelmingly public. Why is Tammy Duckworth sponsoring a bill that aims to change that? https://t.co/1V36Kkd99s</div> — The American Prospect (@The American Prospect)<a href="https://twitter.com/TheProspect/statuses/1281000111481294849">1594249201.0</a></blockquote></div>
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