U.N. turns to crowdfunding to salvage decaying oil tanker off Yemen

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The United Nations has turned to crowdfunding to raise the $80 million needed to remove more than a million barrels of oil from a decaying tanker in the Red Sea and prevent a potential environmental catastrophe.

Contaminated water from Florida mining facility dumped a year’s worth of hazardous nutrients into Tampa Bay in just 10 days, study shows

Read the full story from CBS News.

All it took was 10 days to devastate the waters of Tampa Bay for months. The nearly “catastrophic failure” of Piney Point, a former phosphate mining facility, unleashed millions of gallons of untreated wastewater into local waterways, and new research, published on the anniversary the leak at the facility began, reveals just how devastating it was. 

The incident began last year when the company in charge of Piney Point, HRK Holdings, found a tear in the liner of a gypsum stack. That liner is what essentially prevents millions of gallons of mining wastewater and dredged materials from seeping through a phosphogypsum stack – a massive mound made up of phosphorus mining byproduct. That leak started to impact the structural integrity of the entire stack, prompting officials to evacuate residents over concern that the stack would totally collapse and unleash a massive wave of water.

To prevent that from happening, officials had to pump that wastewater into local waterways. Over the course of 10 days, more than 215 million gallons of wastewater filled with environmentally toxic levels of nutrients were unleashed into Tampa Bay.

How a determined congressional aide helped break open the biggest environmental scandal in U.S. history

Read the book excerpt from Politico.

Thousands of Niagara Falls residents lived in a toxic wasteland for years until a whistleblower made a call.

Excerpt from Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe by Keith O’Brien

Edwardsville pipeline leaked an estimated 165K gallons of oil. Some flowed into a creek

Read the full story in the Bellevelle News-Democrat.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has asked the Attorney General to enforce cleanup and other action by energy company Marathon Pipe Line after an estimated 165,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from its pipeline in Edwardsville, some of which flowed into a creek, according to the state agency.

The oil leak started Friday morning in Edwardsville near Illinois 143 and Old Alton Edwardsville Road and entered Cahokia Creek, which is parallel to the pipeline.

The cause of the leak was not immediately clear. Marathon wrote in a statement that an investigation will be conducted.

Repeated exposure to major disasters has long-term mental health impacts

Read the full story from Texas A&M University.

Repeated exposure to major disasters does not make people mentally stronger, a recent study found: individuals who have been repeatedly exposed to major disasters show a reduction in mental health scores.

A key tool for cleaning up oil spills is more hazardous than helpful

Read the full story at Hakai Magazine.

In the decade since the record-breaking use of oil dispersants in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response, science shows they’re dangerous, potentially deadly, and rarely useful. A new court case is forcing the US EPA to reconsider their use.

Offshore Oil Spills: Additional Information is Needed to Better Understand the Environmental Tradeoffs of Using Chemical Dispersants

Download the document.

What GAO Found

When an oil spill occurs, responders have several options to manage the environmental effects, including using chemical dispersants (see figure). Chemical dispersants used on a surface oil slick can be effective at breaking up floating oil, which can help prevent the oil from reaching shore and harming sensitive ecosystems, according to studies GAO reviewed and stakeholders GAO interviewed. However, the effectiveness of applying dispersants below the ocean surface—such as in response to an uncontrolled release of oil from a subsurface wellhead—is not well understood for various reasons. For example, measurements for assessing effectiveness of dispersants applied at the subsurface wellhead during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had limitations and were inconclusive. In addition, there are limited experimental data on the effectiveness of subsurface dispersants that reflect conditions found in the deep ocean.

Application of Chemical Dispersants at the Surface by Aircraft and Boat
Application of Chemical Dispersants at the Surface by Aircraft and Boat

Chemically dispersed oil is known to be toxic to some ocean organisms, but broader environmental effects are not well understood. Dispersants themselves are considered significantly less toxic than oil, but chemically dispersing oil can increase exposure to the toxic compounds in oil for some ocean organisms, such as early life stages of fish and coral. Other potentially harmful effects of chemically dispersed oil, especially in the deep ocean, are not well understood due to various factors. These factors include laboratory experiments about the toxicity of chemically dispersed oil that use inconsistent test designs and yield conflicting results, experiments that do not reflect ocean conditions, and limited information on organisms and natural processes that exist in the deep ocean.

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies have taken some actions to help ensure decision makers have quality information to support decisions on dispersant use. For example, the Coast Guard and EPA have assessed the environmental effects of using dispersants on a surface slick. However, they have not assessed the environmental effects of the subsurface use of dispersants. By assessing the potential environmental effects of the subsurface use of dispersants, the Coast Guard and EPA could help ensure that decision makers are equipped with quality information about the environmental tradeoffs associated with decisions to use dispersants in the deep ocean.

Why GAO Did This Study

In April 2010, an explosion onboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in 11 deaths and the release of approximately 206 million gallons of oil. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, responders applied dispersants to the oil slick at the ocean surface as well as at the wellhead more than 1,500 meters below the surface. The subsurface use of dispersants was unprecedented and controversial.

GAO was asked to review what is known about the use of chemical dispersants. This report examines, among other things, what is known about the effectiveness of dispersants, what is known about the effects of chemically dispersed oil on the environment, and the extent to which federal agencies have taken action to help ensure decision makers have quality information to support decisions on dispersant use. GAO reviewed scientific studies, laws, regulations, and policies. GAO also interviewed agency officials and stakeholders from academia and industry.

Pipeline spills 300,000 gallons of diesel near New Orleans

Read the full story from the Associated Press.

A severely corroded pipeline ruptured and spilled more than 300,000 gallons (1.1 million liters) of diesel fuel just outside New Orleans after the operator delayed needed repairs, according to federal records.

Most of the fuel drained into two artificial ponds called “borrow pits” and thousands of fish, birds and other animals were killed, state and local officials said Wednesday. The spill also contaminated soil, according to state and federal officials.

Facebook’s submarine cable project marred by ‘Frac Outs’ and sinkholes

Read the full story at 6Park.news.

Facebook recently completed a connection on the Oregon coast for 8,500 miles of fiber optic cable that runs under the Pacific Ocean. However, this important technical achievement came at a cost.

The project was delayed for about two years and was marred by a massive drilling fluid leak, a drone dispute, tons of broken abandoned equipment and at least two sumps.

Texas Tech professor’s cotton mat could improve oil spill clean up

Read the full story from Texas Standard.

The mat is made of a specific type of nonwoven cotton, which can absorb up to 50 times its weight in oil.