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Impacts Continue, Four Years into BP Oil Spill Disaster

PHOTO: This photo, taken in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon spill, shows an oil-covered pelican. Photo courtesy Louisiana Governor's Office.
PHOTO: This photo, taken in 2010 following the Deepwater Horizon spill, shows an oil-covered pelican. Photo courtesy Louisiana Governor's Office.
April 9, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas - Nearly four years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a new study says the disaster is far from over.

Much research remains to be done, said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation, but the science shows that wildlife still are feeling the impacts and the oil is not gone.

"There is oil on the bottom of the gulf, oil is washing up on the beaches and oil's still in the marshes," Inkley said. "I'm really not surprised by this, to tell you the truth. In Prince William Sound in Alaska, 25 years after the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, there are still some species that have not fully recovered - two-and-a-half decades later."

The April 20, 2010, explosion on BP's Deepwater rig killed 11 people and sent more than 4 million barrels of oil into the gulf, in the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history.

The report examined how the spill has affected more than a dozen species in the gulf. Inkley said that includes issues with oysters and tuna, loons and pelicans, sperm whales and dolphins.

"Dolphins in the heavily oiled area of Barataria Bay are still sick and dying," he said. "The evidence is stronger than ever, according to NOAA, that these deaths are connected to the oil spill - 900 dolphins since the oil spill began. If you line up those 900 dolphins from head to toe, that's one-and-a-half miles of dead dolphins."

The spill also affected five sea turtle species found in the Gulf of Mexico, all of them listed as either threatened or endangered. Pamela Plotkin, director of Texas Sea Grant, said that includes the Kemp's ridley sea turtle, which had seen its population rebound year after year until Deepwater. Now, she said, they're also being threatened by last month's spill in Galveston Bay.

"The biggest concern is the oil that has left the bay and has moved south down towards Matagorda Ilsand and the Aransas Wildlife Refuge," she said. "So, that oil that has moved offshore is going right through the migratory corridor of the Kemp's ridley sea turtle."

Up to 168,000 gallons of oil spilled in late March when a barge and a ship collided in Galveston Bay, which averages close to 300 oil spills of various sizes each year.

The report is online at nwf.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX