By Kevin Chiu and Mike Colpitts
Destin, Florida – The devastation that the BP oil spill is producing to the Gulf of Mexico is at least the size of all five Great Lakes as America’s greatest environmental disaster. It is likely to force hundreds of thousands of residents to relocate their homes to other areas as the epic disaster destroys hundreds of species of birds, fish, mammals and other animals and threatens the lives of thousands of residents along the Gulf Coast. It may become America’s most toxic graveyard.
In a small church inside the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana only days after the BP oil well exploded on the Deepwater Horizon killing 11 BP employees April 20th, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told a small group, “It’s like all five of the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes are oil sheen.”
Jackson had just flown over the Gulf to survey the damage of America’s worst environmental disaster. Since that time oil from the damaged well 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana has continued to gush at a volume so high that neither federal officials nor BP management can get a handle on it.
Spanning from Minnesota to New York, the Great Lakes region has faced environmental catastrophes for years, dating back to the booming steal era, which polluted many of the lakes for years before federal regulations prohibited the disposal of toxic wastes into lakes, rivers and reservoirs.
Industrial pollution from major corporations has contributed to most of the environmental catastrophes of the Great Lakes, polluting areas and disappearing wetlands and species of many fish populations and other animals. The U.S. and Canadian governments identified 31 toxic hot spots on the U.S. side of the border in the 1980s. Since that time only one has been completely cleaned up, despite efforts by both the EPA and the Canadian government.
Inside the National Baptist Hymnal church some 50 people had gathered with TV cameras to cover Jackson, who grew up in New Orleans on that day early in the disaster. It was a heart wrenching moment, and gave community leaders a time to voice their concerns.
The ramifications of the Gulf of Mexico disaster were still unclear as oil gushed from the bottom of the sea. Since that time BP has tried numerous attempts to stop the gushing leak, all without success, although BP officials say they are capturing some of the oil.
In what has become clear since that time the BP well has continued to gush without hesitation from one of the planet’s largest reservoirs of oil covering the bottom of the Gulf. Numerous methane gas explosions have occurred since the Deepwater Horizon went up in flames, according to scientists, devastating fish and other species in the waters of the Gulf.
The devastation to the area has been immense as the oil sledge from the well moves inland, as far north as 20 miles into the marshes and estuaries of the Louisiana Delta clearly killing off animal life in the region from the toxic mess in the oil.
Swimmers have been warned to stay out of the water in seven beaches along the Alabama coastline, and closures are expected.
Oil from the failed well reached the shores of Orange Beach, Alabama, a waterfront resort community known for being the home of summer tourists and a condo haven, where new condos were sold at a record pace during the real estate boom. A hurricane or tropical storm ripping through the region would be disastrous for the oil spill, sending it inland with a mass of oil to coat homes and condos like that would occur only in the movies.
In Pensacola tar balls are being cleaned up daily as work crews hired by BP try to keep the beaches clean. In Destin, few tar balls have washed ashore and the beaches remain open as the waters remain clear radiating in the summer sun, and locals await the weather’s currents.
More than 50 days after the accident the same rings true as Jackson said that day in New Orleans: “It’s just like a hurricane. We’re looking at the forecast. We’re trying to figure out where it’s going to go.”