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State of the Gulf Report Released by Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers

Waterkeeper Alliance

More than a year since the BP's Deepwater Horizon well was capped in the Gulf of Mexico, oil continues to wash ashore along beaches and wetlands of the U.S. coast at an alarming rate.

This disaster—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—has devastated the health of the region's wildlife and lands. It's a growing threat to public health. Local economies—from Florida to Louisiana—and family budgets are suffering. The BP oil disaster isn't over.

To highlight the oil contamination found in the water, sediment, and seafood and sea life across the coastline, on Oct. 4, Waterkeeper Alliance issued The State of the Gulf, a status report of Gulf Coast recovery after the discharge of 250 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The report outlines seven key findings, including calling for long-term environmental monitoring. Currently, the Save Our Gulf Waterkeeper organizations coordinate the most comprehensive citizen-led environmental monitoring effort. The report documents the results of the environmental monitoring project, including oyster tissue sampling from Louisiana to Florida.

Since last summer, Waterkeeper Alliance and Gulf Coast Waterkeepers have been speaking out and advocating for local communities and watersheds to ensure that they're not forgotten. Over the last year, Waterkeeper Alliance has:

  • Sampled and monitored the oil contamination found in water, sea life and along the shores of the Gulf states,
  • Pressed for a greater voice among local citizens as part of the government's Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and
  • Organized more than 154 environmental, fishing and community groups to demand that that Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health and Human Services provide resources to those who are experiencing health impacts due to the oil disaster.

The seven key findings of the report include:

  • The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is an ongoing disaster. The oil isn't gone, and long-term impacts are still unknown. If past oil spills are used as a barometer we can fully expect the Gulf Coast to suffer continued environmental degradation for decades. Leading scientific studies are showing that three-fourths of the oil is still lingering on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, creating an unprecedented and unknown new environmental reality for the Gulf Coast. Oil is also still along the coastal areas in the form of tarballs, strings and mats, as well as in subsurface sandy beach areas. Our governmental and community leaders must work in concert to find long-term, sustainable solutions for recovery and restoration.

  • The BP deepwater horizon oil disaster is a national disaster. The Gulf Coast serves as a resource for the entire nation. The Gulf of Mexico has one of the most productive fisheries in the world, providing more than two-thirds of the nation’s shrimp and oysters along with four of the top seven fishing ports by weight. There are more than 5 million acres of coastal wetlands along the Gulf, which is about half of the coastal wetlands in the United States. If the Gulf Coast collapses and these resources are lost, it will have negative consequences for the entire nation. The BP oil disaster also proved that the industry and federal and state governments and agencies are not prepared for oil spills of national significance. Deficiencies in regulations and enforcement continue to threaten communities and ecosystems across the nation. At a minimum, Oil Spill Commission recommendations must be implemented in order to ensure a higher level of safety in offshore drilling.

  • There are growing public health concerns on the gulf coast. While setting up pathways toward ecosystem restoration, the government continues to ignore citizens’ calls for action on public health. Currently there's no government forum for those suffering from and concerned about the short- and long-term health impacts. The impacts extend along all Gulf of Mexico states and consist of current and ex-oil clean-up workers and coastal communities. The people of the Gulf Coast are still in need of proper diagnosis, treatment and medical monitoring. Our health, economy and environment are interconnected and solutions must reflect this.

  • Citizens’ participation must be placed at the highest priority for appropriate restoration. To ensure responsible and adequate recovery and restoration for sustainable and resilient communities, public participation must be included in all decision making. A Citizen Advisory Council has been added to provide input to the federal restoration framework, and now a Regional Citizen Advisory Council (RCAC) must be established, funded and given decision-making authority for the Gulf Coast. An RCAC should be charged to help monitor industry compliance, governmental oversight and scientific research in the years following the nation’s largest environmental disaster, thus protecting our environment, communities and economies from additional oil pollution.

  • Dedicate clean water act penalties to the Gulf Coast for environmental restoration. Impacted communities need leadership from their congressional delegations to ensure that Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the BP oil disaster are dedicated to the Gulf Coast for environmental restoration. The Gulf of Mexico is a major economic engine for the entire country, and its restoration must be adequately funded.

  • The Gulf Coast must restore and rebuild sustainabily. The past seven years have been tumultuous for the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav and now the BP oil disaster have devastated both important natural resources and local economies. In our changing times and climate, the Gulf Coast must show leadership by rebuilding, recovering and restoring sustainability. Restoring wetlands, oyster reefs and natural flow regimes can build resiliency back into our coastal communities. We have an opportunity to make fundamental changes to the way we have cared for our environment and natural resources, and we must not let the lessons of this disaster or the gateway to change be lost.

  • Long-term environmental monitoring is essential. Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers has collected and analyzed over 100 samples of aquatic organism tissue, soil and water from Gulf of Mexico coastal areas from Louisiana to Florida. We found petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in all of the areas that were sampled and in the tissue of many of the seafood species. The data that we collected also lead us to believe that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in some seafood species may be increasing over time. In light of these results, we believe that comprehensive long-term environmental monitoring is essential to understanding, protecting and restoring the Gulf Coast ecosystem in the wake of the BP oil disaster.

To download the full report, click here.

For more information, click here.

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