By CNN Meteorologist Rob Marciano
One year into this oil disaster, there seems to be more questions than answers when it comes to the vast ecosystem that is the Gulf of Mexico.
Nature is resilient and can recover from most catastrophic events, given enough time. Most scientists believe the Gulf will eventually recover, but when and at what costs?
Since Jan. 1, more than 220 sea turtles and 175 dolphins have washed up dead on gulf shore beaches. Test results confirming a direct link to the BP oil spill won’t be available for months. This is partly because good science takes time, but mostly because this information, along with a slew of other evidence, is being gathered to build a case for litigation against BP.
Dirty water, damaged habitat, and dead animals all are being quantified to bring dollars back to restore the Gulf. Of all the solutions to the countless problems one seems to get the most attention: The Mississippi. Man-made levees and canals have changed the way the river feeds the gulf and its wetlands. Allow the river to “spread the ecological wealth” a bit by opening up the outflow and/or periodically releasing water/nutrients further upriver so the Mississippi Delta can replenish the wetlands that have been disappearing at astonishing rates for decades. Just a thought among many good ideas that may now be possible given the attention and dollars that will be produced from an eventual legal settlement.
Reporting on this disaster during the past year has brought me closer to these incredible creatures than I’d ever imagined. It’s heart breaking to see the fatalities increasing at such alarming rates. Turtle and dolphin deaths this year are 10 to 15 times higher than normal. The Institute for Marine Mammals Studies in Gulfport has been busy testing these animals while also rehabilitating rescued ones during this event.
On this anniversary date, we felt it proper to spend the day at their facility. While here, I got to meet a couple of their resident “retired” dolphins, just 2 more amazing critters I’ve gotten to know on this assignment. See my report below.
Editor's note: Watch Rob's full report on American Morning Monday at 6AM ET.
By Rob Marciano, CNN Meteorologist
It’s been three months since the Macondo well was capped, finally stopping the relentless flow of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Wednesday will mark six months since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded killing 11 men.
Countless critters in and out of the water have perished and thousands more will be affected down the road. This is easily the worst environmental disaster in American history. Millions of dollars and millions of man hours have been spent trying to clean up the incomparable mess and save the sensitive wildlife. A half year in...it's time for a checkup.
Our first stop is where more people have seen the oil up close: The beach. Northern Gulf beaches were all hit hard with crude and globs of tar. Alabama and Florida’s bright white crushed quartz beaches got it the worst and in the height of the tourist season. Most of the tar on the surface has been cleaned up, but some tar layers remain two feet below the surface, thanks to Hurricane Alex.
Oddly enough, the quickest way to naturally rid the oil is for another hurricane to roll in and scrape the tar back off the beach. Unwilling to wait for mother nature's help, man-made machines are helping dig deep. Cooler temperatures and innovation have brought out the big guns to mechanically clean the sand. But compressing the sand, disrupting a habitat, and burning lots of fuel is not the greenest way to clean an environmental disaster. So does the buried tar really need to be removed?
We took sand core samples with the University of West Florida. Preliminary results show minimal harmful compounds down to two feet. Don't eat it, or roll around in it too long and it’s no worse than changing the oil in your car. Regardless, it's not good for beach business. So cleanup crews are going after it.
Of course, the bigger issue is how the lingering hydrocarbon compounds accumulate in the Gulf's food chain and decrease fish populations. UWF is studying that too but won't have concrete answers for at least 6 months if not several years.
Watch the full story Monday on American Morning. Tuesday's report will feature the continued impact on wildlife. Wednesday we'll show you wetland areas where oil remains and what's being done about it.
(CNN) – The ruptured Macondo well, a mile under the Gulf of Mexico off the Louisiana coast, has been pronounced dead following the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, but that doesn't mean work associated with the spill is complete, the government's point man for the disaster response said Monday.
"It's going to go on as long as it takes to get the marshes and the beaches clean," retired Adm. Thad Allen told CNN's "American Morning. "We have detailed plans that we've negotiated with the states and the parishes in Louisiana to determine, if you will, how clean is clean."
In some areas, such as Louisiana's Barataria Bay, "we're going to stay with this for quite a while," he said. At some point, officials may decide they have done all they can, "but for right now, we're still at it."
Although authorities say testing does not show high levels of oil remaining in the water, some researchers insist the oil has settled to the sea floor and infiltrated the bottom, where it could affect ecosystems. Asked about those reports, Allen said, "I don't think we can know too much about the Gulf of Mexico and the presence of hydrocarbons in the water column."
University of South Florida researchers have discovered oil on the ocean floor 40 miles south of Panama City beach. They say it sparkles like "a constellation of little dots," when it's hit by ultra-violet light and that the chemical mix of oil and dispersant is highly-toxic to marine life.