Justice News Flash.com: BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Still Searching for Answers & UGA researchers help continue Gulf oil spill research, community

BP Oil Spill Cleanup Workers Still Searching for Answers
2013-10-17 19:11:08 (GMT) (JusticeNewsFlash.com – Health & Law, Press Release)
10/14/2013 // BP Oil Spill Claim Website (Press Release) // Greg Vigna // (press release)

Court hearings continue over the financial responsibility of oil giant BP for damages caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. In a recent news report it was stated that the attorneys for the company and the federal government remain at odds over methods used to estimate how big the massive spill was. Estimates from both sides show that over three million barrels were leaked into the Gulf during the nearly three months it took to stop it.

The outcome of the recent court matter could lead to BP having to shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in fines under the Clean Water Act. This is in addition to other sums set aside for the compensation of those who were injured or sustained property damage as a result of the spill.

Those who worked as response workers for cleanup efforts following the oil spill are also now being considered in the group of those with potential damage claims against BP. Although many injured cleanup workers are still waiting for answers regarding their eligibility to pursue damages, a proposed settlement is being discussed by attorneys and others to compensate injured response workers for medical expenses. A number have experienced respiratory, skin, and other health conditions due to crude oil contaminant exposure and toxic chemical exposure to dispersants sprayed during cleanup efforts.

Injured BP oil spill response workers can contact the BP Gulf Oil Spill Help Desk for information regarding the status of the proposed settlement, and what their available medical and legal options may be. The help desk is now open for those who would like to request a free case review.


UGA researchers help continue Gulf oil spill research, community
By Jeanette Kazmierczak @sciencekaz | Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 1:00 pm

When millions of barrels of oil spilled out of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and into the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, researchers and coastal communities braced themselves for a long haul recovery. University of Georgia researchers at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography in Savannah are conducting continuing research on the potential effects of oil on the life cycles of economically important blue crabs and shrimp.

Richard Lee, a professor emeritus at Skidaway, and his team studied the effects of emulsified oil, and initial results show exposure reduces the production of eggs and embryos in female shrimp and alters immune-related blood cells in blue crabs.
“Emulsified oil is produced when oil is vigorously mixed with seawater to produce a water-in-oil emulsion which is much more viscous than the original crude oil,” Lee wrote in an email to The Red & Black. “The catalysts are metal compounds in the crude oil that produce the emulsion. We have found that emulsified oil remains on the sediment when washed ashore and thus because of its persistence is more toxic to marsh animals, such as crabs.”

Observations made on blue crabs were done in conjunction with Anna Walker, a professor of pathology at Mercer University in Macon. “We looked at tissues from control blue crabs and then blue crabs that had been fed emulsified oil over a period of various numbers of days,” Walker said. “And it did appear that those animals that had consumed the emulsion for seven days, they had some kind of material in their hemocytes.” Hemocytes are the invertebrate equivalent of human white blood cells. “The suggestion that we had – because this is all very preliminary – is that the hemocytes were not functioning properly. And if they can’t function properly, they can’t remove any type of infectious organism from the hemolymph therefore the blue crab would be at a greater risk for the development of an infection.”

Walker stressed these are extremely preliminary results, based on one set of observations. She also said she and Lee are trying to avoid coming across as “Chicken Little.” While the immediate consequences of the spill were dire for many animals, the long-term consequences are proving to be less horrible than was expected. She said the key point to take away was that studying both types of consequences is important for understanding the repercussions of not only this, but future oil spills.

Researchers working with Lee have also been looking at the effects of dispersed oil, which is different from emulsified oil in that dispersed oil is treated by a chemical to break it up into droplets to prevent slicks. Lee said to imagine using oil-cutting soap to clean dishes – the oil isn’t destroyed, just broken up. He wrote in his email that the idea was that in this form the oil would be more quickly degraded by marine bacteria.

“This point is still in some disagreement by scientists, particularly in the case of a large oil spill,” Lee wrote. “We have determined that these dispersed oil droplets can be taken up by plankton, the small organisms that make up much of the biomass of the ocean. This is work we did with Marion Koshland at the University of Griefswald in Germany and Gustav Paffenhoeffer at [Skidaway]. Fish and other larger organisms can consume plankton containing dispersed oil and thus this oil enters the marine food web.”

Lee wrote the overall effect of the oil spill on population numbers of crabs and shrimp is hard to determine because population will vary from year to year anyway.

Lee and his team have also collaborated with researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi to provide outreach for affected communities. Jessica Kastler, the coordinator of program development at USM’s marine education center, said much of their work was with the Vietnamese-American fishing community in Ocean Springs, Miss.

“Our goal in this project was to talk to people about the role of science because science is going to be coming up with answers about the oil spill for at least another decade,” Kastler said. “And it would be nice if people were listening for those answers when they come up and then we can keep that information available for making decisions about future things. But working within the community – there’s a real, strong interest within the Vietnamese-American community to work with scientists and to be part of the data collection and interpretation effort.”

Kastler said discussion wasn’t always easy, both because of the language barrier and the emotions tied up in the ramifications of the oil spill, but she said the Vietnamese-American community was more interested even than some of the charter boat captains because their livelihoods are so intricately tied to the water.
“They got to learn how science works, they got to practice some of the things Dr. Lee was doing in his lab,” she said. “Then they got to share some of the messages from the project – this is the role of science, this is not, this is what science can tell us and we’re going to be waiting a long time for all of the answers.”
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Special thanks to Richard Charter

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