Environmental

Satellite images reveal another Gulf oil spill

BP isn’t the only oil company currently spilling crude oil into the Gulf from defective wells and broken riser pipes, satellite images reveal. An offshore rig named the Ocean Saratoga has been spewing oil into the water since at least April 30, according to federal documents.

The rig, which is situated about 40 miles from the Deepwater Horizon site, is owned by Diamond Offshore and leased to Taylor Energy Company. An organization called Skytruth, which uses satellite images to document environmental destruction, has published images of what it believes to be one but possibly two oil leaks in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon well. A 10-mile oil slick can be seen emanating from the Ocean Saratoga from space.

The first known public mention of the Ocean Saratoga oil leak was in a map prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on April 30. Skytruth reported the leak on its website on May 15. However, on May 17, U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry said that she was unaware of another rig leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

But the pictures are there, showing long streaks of oil stretching across the water as far as the eye can see.

Prompted by the news of yet another leak, an environmental group called Southwings flew over the Ocean Saratoga with photographer J. Henry Fair of Industrialscars.com. According to the Mobile Press-Register, the crew returned with images “that appear to show a large oil crew boat pumping dispersants into the water at the spill site.”

“It appeared the crew boat had barrels of dispersant on board,” Tom Hutchings of Southwings, a volunteer organization of pilots who monitor environmental problems from airplanes, told the Press-Register.

Henry Fair said his photos revealed a large hose running off the side of he boat and going underwater. The hose is attached to several buoys, but it is not known how far the end of it extended under the surface.

“I see a hose going over the side. The boat was not moving, but it was making a wake, disturbing the water a lot,” Fair told the Press-Register. “I see a glossy slick that one would usually identify as petroleum, and it goes a long way away.”

Although nobody has come forward to say how long the Ocean Saratoga has been leaking oil into the Gulf, it is known that Taylor Energy was in the process of plugging the well. The platform that once was anchored over the well site was toppled during Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

BP was also in the process of plugging the Deepwater Horizon well when gas shot up through the drill column and exploded on the surface, killing 11 workers and sinking the rig.

Skytruth founder John Amos said that his organization accidentally discovered the Ocean Saratoga spill while looking at images of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

“The question is, what would we see if we were systematically looking at the offshore industry? Is this an aberration, or are things like this going on all the time?” Amos wondered.

Amos said the discovery underscores the need for “public, transparent monitoring everywhere offshore drilling is going on in U.S. waters.”

No company representatives or federal officials would comment on the Ocean Saratoga spill.