September 24th 2012 3:30pm
On August 28, 2012 Hurricane Isaac came ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi River as a category one hurricane with highest sustained winds reported at 80 mph. However the slow moving storm brought torrential rains causing massive flooding in Mississippi and Louisianna.
Isaac also brought something else—a reminder that the ecological damage from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 continues. After Isaac tar balls washed up on the beaches of eastern Alabama, particularly Orange Beach.
A report released Thursday by Auburn University says that chemical analysis shows that virtually all these tar balls are directly linked to the BP oil spill which occurred over two years ago.
The report said that tar balls caused by the BP spill are hundreds to thousands of times more common than another type of tar-like deposits that have been found in the Gulf for years.
A 2002 study by the National Academy of Sciences reported that natural oil seepage from the Gulf occurs every day in an amount sufficient to fill 1,399 barrels each day. Most of this is consumed by microbes living in the Gulf. But the Auburn researchers say their studies show that the vast majority of oily tar balls still washing up in the Gulf are as a result of the BP spill.
Perhaps the most disturbing finding was that certain chemicals in these tar balls have barely broken down since 2010. This could mean that tar balls could threaten our beaches for a long time to come.
More information on the BP Oil Spill.
Gerald McGill is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and a former Commanding Officer of two Coast Guard Cutters