When Hurricane Ivan coursed through the Gulf of Mexico in 2004, it knocked out operations at a Taylor Energy Company platform and ruptured several well heads in the area. Since then the wells have been leaking oil into the sea 12 miles south of New Orleans, and according to Grist, efforts to cap the wells appear to have ceased in 2011. While Taylor has stated that the resultant slick is 200 feet wide and 6.5 miles long, NOAA’s estimates suggest that there is a one mile wide, 20.2 mile long oil slick—that’s roughly 80 times larger than Taylor is reporting.
Everyday oil leaks into the Gulf of Mexico—often from poorly maintained infrastructure, and Skytruth is one of the organizations that tracks alerts relating to these leaks and spills and monitors the local environment. Skytruth has compiled their own satellite imagery and compared the data to that from Taylor Energy Company’s daily reports to the US Coast Guard:
“What we see on satellite images consistently contradicts Taylor’s own reports, suggesting they are systematically and significantly underreporting the size of the slick. And our analysis shows that the total spill from the Taylor site may have exceeded 1 million gallons by February 2012.”
And the best case scenario?
“If we assume the slick is, on average, only 1/1000th of a millimeter (1 micron) thick, that amounts to at least 13,800 gallons of oil on the water. Yet the federal government has publicly stated that the leaking wells cumulatively spill only about 14 gallons per day.”
It’s a pretty staggering situation, but as Grist and others note, Taylor Energy’s nine-year-long oil spill is occurring without much by way of action or scandal—a result of prevalence of oil industry accidents in the region and dramatic under-reporting to the government regarding the size of the slick. As a result, environmental monitoring group On Wings of Care reports “to date, the USCG, the EPA, and other government enforcement agencies have not acted so as to effect the undertaking of repair or remediation. So the leakage has continued.”
Photos © On Wings of Care