2019 “Dead Zone” in Gulf of Mexico may be the second largest on record

❝ A recent forecast of the size of the “Dead Zone” in the northern Gulf of Mexico for late July 2019 is that it will cover 8,717-square-miles of the bottom of the continental shelf off Louisiana and Texas. The unusually high Mississippi River discharge in May controls the size of this zone, which will likely be the second largest zone since systematic measurements began in 1985. The water mass with oxygen concentrations less than 2 parts per million forms in bottom waters each year primarily as a result of nitrogen and phosphorus loading from the Mississippi River watershed, which fertilizes the Gulf of Mexico’s surface waters to create excessive amounts of algal biomass. The decomposition of this plant material in the bottom layer leads to oxygen loss…

❝ The low oxygen conditions in the gulf’s most productive waters stresses organisms and may even cause their death, threatening living resources, including fish, shrimp and crabs caught there. Low oxygen conditions started to appear 50 years ago when agricultural practices intensified in the Midwest. No reductions in the nitrate loading from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico have occurred in the last few decades.

Cows and soybeans continue to be more important than shrimp or fish.

Or clean water.

14-year-old Oil Leak in the Gulf of Mexico Finally Contained


Oil slick at the Taylor MC20 siteU.S Coast Guard

❝ A team of contractors has finally contained an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has been spewing from the site of a damaged platform for more than 14 years.

❝ The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed…that teams successfully deployed a subsea system that is able to contain and collect oil being discharged from the site of a toppled platform approximately 11 miles south of the mouth of Mississippi River. The containment system is now actively collecting oil…

❝ The platform, owned by Taylor Energy, LLC, was located in Mississippi Canyon Block 20. It toppled in September 2004 during Hurricane Ivan after storm surge triggered an underwater mudslide. The incident left the platform well conductor pipes buried in more than 100 feet of mud and sediment, impacting 25 of 28 connected wells.

The spill went unnoticed for years until 2008 when it was identified as the source of daily sheen reports.

Taylor knew about the disaster, of course, right from Day One…and tried their best to keep the public, regulators, anyone concerned with environments poisoned by the fossil fuel industry, from finding out. They succeeded for four years.

Gulf of Mexico’s Dead Zone expected to be larger than the state of Connecticut this year

❝ Scientists have predicted the dead zone, or area with little to no oxygen in the northern Gulf of Mexico, will become larger than the state of Connecticut by the end of July. The dead zone will cover about 6,620 square miles of the bottom of the continental shelf off Louisiana and Texas. While there are more than 500 dead zones around the world, the northern Gulf of Mexico dead zone is the second largest human-caused coastal hypoxic area in the world.

Although this forecast has been the average size for the past 31 years, it is more than three times larger than the goal outlined by the Hypoxia Action Plan, which is about 1,930 square miles. Efforts to reduce the nitrate loading have not yet demonstrated success at the watershed scale…

❝ Nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, fertilize the Gulf of Mexico’s surface waters to create excessive amounts of algae. When the algae decomposes in the deepest parts of the ocean, it leads to oxygen distress and can even kill organisms in the Gulf of Mexico’s richest waters. These low oxygen conditions threaten living resources including fish, shrimp and crabs, which humans depend upon for food and industry…

Why worry about dead sea life when you still can drill for oil, eh?

The Gulf of Mexico’s runoff-based “Dead Zone” Might Double


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The oxygen-poor “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico may be the biggest on record this year, nearly doubling in size to cover an area of ocean as large as Vermont, scientists at Louisiana State University estimate.

The dead zone develops when nitrogen-rich runoff from the Midwestern farm belt pours into rivers and out into the Gulf. That runoff is loaded with fertilizer, as well as nutrients from animal and human waste, and it fuels the growth of algae that die, sink, and decompose, depleting oxygen levels offshore. That drives away marine life in the zone — or kills species that can’t escape.

This year, LSU and its partners in the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium estimate the zone will cover more than 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers) off the shores of Louisiana and Texas. High water in the Mississippi River and higher-than-average nitrogen concentrations in the waterway this spring are driving the estimate upward, said Nancy Rabalais, a professor of marine ecosystems at LSU…

Efforts to tackle the roots of the zone have had little effect so far, Rabalais said. Some farms are adopting practices that reduce the amount of fertilizers and tilling needed to grow crops, “but the percentage of the area in the watershed is quite small.”

“There’s a federal-state task force to come up with recommendations state-by-state to reduce nutrients,” she said. “If you read the details of the forecast and the changes in flows over time, you can see there hasn’t been much of a change. Which means the few really concerted efforts to reduce nutrients have been overwhelmed by the usual way of big agribusiness in the watershed.”

Small farmers – like my kin in Canada – can’t afford to waste money on over-fertilizing. Often, they’re closer to environmental concerns, anyway. The bigger the operation, the more folks think like careless beancounters. They think they save more dollar$ by eliminating human beings than crap supplements.

The annual Dead Zone from fertilizer runoff is getting ready to hit the Gulf of Mexico

deadzone

The Gulf of Mexico teems with biodiversity and contains some of the globe’s most productive fisheries. Yet starting in the early 1970s, large swaths of the Gulf began to experience annual dead zones in the late summer and early fall. This year’s will likely be nearly a third larger than normal, about the size of Connecticut, according to a recent report from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University.

The problem is tied to industrial-scale meat production. To churn out huge amounts chicken, beef, and pork, the meat industry relies on corn as cheap feed. The US grows about a third of the globe’s corn, the great bulk of it in the Midwest, on land that drains into the Mississippi River. Every year, fertilizer runoff from Midwestern farms leaches into the Mississippi and makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Intended to feed the nation’s vast corn crop, this renegade nitrogen instead feeds vast aquatic algae blooms in the early summer. When the algae blooms die and decay, they tie up oxygen from the water underneath. As a result, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization puts it, “habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.”…

Researchers are expecting an unusually big nitrogen load this year. And their report amounts to a de facto rebuke to the federal effort to address the problem: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, a largely voluntary effort to reduce fertilizer pollution in the Mississippi watershed. If this year’s dead zone turns out to be as large expected—about 6,800 square miles—it will be more than three times larger than EPA task force’s maximum target of around 2,000 square miles. As for the goal of reducing the amount of nitrogen streaming into the Gulf? No progress has been made,” the Louisiana researchers bluntly stated.

We’re all caught up with the gun manufacturing lobby – otherwise known as the NRA – nowadays. For good reason. But, agribusiness – from cattle ranchers all the way back to fodder farms, corn and soy, own the USDA and EPA as solidly as Colt Firearms has the Senate by the short and curlys.

Prizing intelligent use policy from the death-clutch of agribiz lobbies is a task that has confounded progressive politics for decades. All the lies in the food service world line up: from “we provide cheap food for our children” to “we keep costs to a minimum for American consumers”. Half-truths, sophistry designed to ignore health and environmental concerns.

2010 BP oil spill blamed for rise in dolphin deaths in Gulf of Mexico


Click to enlargeRon Wooten

A new study by the NOAA concludes that the 2011 BP oil spill, the largest marine-based oil spill in U.S history, is to blame for the ongoing die-off of bottlenose dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

The new paper — authored by 22 scientists as part of unusual mortality event investigation by the NOAA — confirms the conclusions of a number of other studies. The research validates the findings of a 2011 study that showed live dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay suffered poor health, adrenal disease, and lung disease linked to contaminants from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill…

The latest findings build on the the 2011 Barataria Bay study. In examining dead dolphins in and around the Louisiana bay — one of the areas most contaminated by spilled oil — between June 2010 and November 2012, researchers found nearly half of all specimens had a thinning adrenal gland cortex.

Contaminants from oil are proven to damage adrenal glands, and adrenal insufficiency can make sea mammals susceptible to a range of other diseases and stressors.

Scientists also found that a third of all deceased dolphins collected and examined across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had lung lesions consistent with oil contamination. Only 7 percent of the dead or stranded dolphins from non-oil spill areas showed signs of a thinning adrenal cortex, and only 2 percent had lung lesions.

Who will BP repay for the wildlife carnage from the oil spill? They payback business, individual humans. But, the world is diminished by the loss of natural life from the Gulf of Mexico as surely as the loss of income.

BP ruled “grossly negligent” in Gulf oil spill

BP Plc was “grossly negligent” for its role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago, a U.S. district judge said on Thursday in a ruling that could add billions of dollars in fines to the more than $42 billion in charges taken so far for the worst offshore disaster in U.S. history…

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier in New Orleans held a trial without a jury last year to determine who was responsible for the April 20, 2010 environmental disaster. Barbier ruled that BP was mostly at fault and that two other companies in the case, Transocean Ltd and Halliburton, were not as much to blame.

“The Court concludes that the discharge of oil ‘was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct’ by BP, the ruling said.

BP said it would appeal the ruling…blah, blah, blah…

BP has already been forced to shrink by selling assets to pay for the cleanup. Those sales erased about a fifth of its earning power…

Barbier has yet to assign damages from the spill under the federal Clean Water Act. A gross negligence verdict carries a potential fine of $4,300 per barrel fine.

BP says some 3.26 million barrels leaked from the well and the U.S government says 4.9 million barrels spilled. The statutory limit on a simple “negligence” is $1,100 per barrel…

Even after the Clean Water Act fines are set, BP may face other bills from a lengthy Natural Resources Damage Assessment, which could require BP to carry out or fund environmental restoration work in the Gulf, and other claims.

They deserve to pay every penny of fine, every dollar of public compensation, every billion of responsibility owed the environment of the Gulf of Mexico.

Offshore wind farms provide feeding opportunities for seals – and more

New research has revealed offshore wind turbines may act as artificial reefs and seals have been deliberately seeking out the structures whilst hunting for prey.

Dr Deborah Russell carried out research with her team from the University of St Andrews where they gathered data from GPS devices attached to seals in the North Sea. The findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

The movements of Harbour and Grey seals were tracked and the researchers found a proportion of the seals continued to return to offshore wind structures. This suggested seals forage around wind farms and underwater pipelines along British and Dutch coasts.

Russell said, “I was shocked when I first saw the stunning grid pattern of a seal track around Sheringham Shoal – an offshore wind farm in Norfolk.

“You could see that the seal appeared to travel in straight lines between turbines, as if he was checking them out for potential prey and then stopping to forage at certain ones.”

She added, “The behaviour observed could have implications for both offshore wind farm developments and the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure.”

A study published in the journal of Applied Ecology in May suggested that renewable energy projects could help certain marine species settle in new areas and thrive.

The first thing I learned about offshore structures when I started work down along the Gulf of Mexico was that the best fishing spots in the Gulf were underneath well producing platforms. Between structure and shade which offered temperature gradients, you always had better luck catching your limit next to an oil platform.

The shade was nice, too.

Thanks, Mike

BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill may take decades to recover


Reuters Pictures used by permission

The deep-sea soft-sediment ecosystem in the immediate area of the 2010’s Deepwater Horizon well head blowout and subsequent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico will likely take decades to recover from the spill’s impacts, according to a scientific paper reported in the online scientific journal PLoS One.

The paper is the first to give comprehensive results of the spill’s effect on deep-water communities at the base of the Gulf’s food chain, in its soft-bottom muddy habitats, specifically looking at biological composition and chemicals at the same time at the same location.

“This is not yet a complete picture,” said Cynthia Cooksey, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science lead scientist for the spring 2011 cruise to collect additional data from the sites sampled in fall 2010. “We are now in the process of analyzing data collected from a subsequent cruise in the spring of 2011. Those data will not be available for another year, but will also inform how we look at conditions over time.”

Continue reading

Real-time monitoring tracks nitrate pulse in Mississippi River Basin into the Gulf of Mexico


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Cutting edge optical sensor technology is being used in the Mississippi River basin to more accurately track the nitrate pulse from small streams, large tributaries and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

Excessive springtime nitrate runoff from agricultural land and other sources in the Mississippi drainage eventually flows into the Mississippi River. Downstream, this excess nitrate contributes to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, an area with low oxygen known commonly as the “dead zone.” NOAA-supported researchers reported that the summer 2013 dead zone covered about 5,840 square miles, an area the size of Connecticut.

These optical sensors measure and transmit nitrate data every 15 minutes to 3 hours and are located at the mouth of the Mississippi River near Baton Rouge, LA, and at several large tributaries to the Mississippi River—including the Missouri River at Hermann, MO; Ohio River at Olmsted, IL; Ohio, Illinois River at Florence, IL; and Iowa River at Wapello, IA – to track how nitrate concentrations from different areas of the watershed pulse in response to rainfall and seasons.

About 622 million pounds of nitrogen were transported in May and June of 2013 at the Mississippi River Baton Rouge station, said Brian Pellerin, USGS research hydrologist. “This is roughly equivalent to the amount of fertilizer nitrogen applied annually to about 4 million acres of corn…”

Real-time nitrate monitoring in Iowa is being used by drinking water utilities to determine when to switch on nitrate-removal systems or when to mix water with multiple sources that have lower concentrations. Both actions result in higher costs for drinking water. “Real-time nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon River at Van Meter, Iowa, peaked at 20.7 milligrams per liter in May 2013. This is more than double the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for drinking water,” said Kevin Richards, Director of the USGS Iowa Water Science Center.

Most Americans don’t realize the role played, the responsibility of agribusiness in polluting our water table. All this crap polluting our waterways filters through local water tables on the way to tributaries, thence to major rivers on the way to contaminating larger bodies – like the Gulf of Mexico.

You might think farmers, from the local Farmer Giles to corporate behemoths might care about cost savings derived from spend/wasting less money on fertilizer destined to be surplus drained as runoff. Don’t worry. You and I get to subsidize it one way or another. Either directly priming the pump for corporate growers – or at the grocery checkout.