BP is wrapping up its oil-spill cleanup efforts on the Gulf Coast this month, pulling out of Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, and all but 83 miles of Louisiana coast, the company said. The oil giant has staged cleanup operations for more than three years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in 2010 and flooded the northern Gulf of Mexico with crude.
BP said on Monday that it invested more than $14 billion and 70 million personnel hours on the spill response and cleanup operations in the Gulf since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. According to the company, at its peak in 2010, the oil spill response involved more than 48,000 workers containing and removing oil from 778 miles of shoreline. The company said that about 1,100 miles of shoreline were oiled during the spill.
In a statement, the U.S. Coast Guard said that Alabama, Florida and Mississippi will transition back to the National Response Center (NRC) in addressing all oil spills and other forms of contamination. The NRC serves as the sole point of contact in environmental emergencies in the U.S. The information it collects is then passed on to the appropriate Coast Guard unit for investigation and response.
New oil that is found will be chemically sampled to determine its source. If the oil is found to have the same chemical fingerprint as the BP oil, BP will be responsible for cleaning it up. Considering all the oil that remains at the bottom of the Gulf, BP cleanup crews will likely make encore appearances in the region for the next 100 years or so.
BP oil that has reached the shore has been mostly cleaned up, but many scientists, environmentalists and residents of the area worry about the oil that remains on the seafloor. One million barrels (42 million gallons) of BP oil remain unaccounted for.
In 2010, BP dumped about 2 million gallons of Corexit oil dispersant into the spill to break it up into smaller particles that, theoretically, would be consumed by microorganisms. The chemical dispersants, however, created giant plumes of submerged oil that eventually sank to the bottom and suffocated the sea life there. Scientists estimate the oil will remain there for the next century, with portions of it being churned up and deposited on land by tropical storms and hurricanes.
Scientists have found that the chemically treated oil still sitting in the Gulf is 52 times more toxic than the regular crude that erupted from BP’s Macondo well, and that oil is the prime suspect in diseased and deformed fish that are turning up in the Gulf, as well as a troubling die-off of organisms that form of the base of the Gulf’s food chain.