Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chemical Dispersants Sprayed in the Gulf of Mexico

The three websites above are related to dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico Oil disaster.

It is really hard to say whether in the long run spraying Chemical dispersants will kill more species or drive more species potentially extinct than leaving the oil alone. It likely might be true to say the beaches won't be affected as badly if thousands of Gallons of dispersants keep being sprayed by planes into the gulf. But since dispersants tend to be mostly like dishwashing or clothes washing detergents it likely won't help fish and likely would burn their eyes and their gills and kill them by the droves. Though oil will kill them all too one wonders whether this is making anything better for any life in the ocean or just sealing the doom of anything within miles of the oil tragedy. And if there are no fish left alive whether it keeps oil off the beaches could also just wind up being a moot point until life moves into that area once again from other areas.

When I lived in Mt. Shasta a tanker car on a train went off the tracks at Canterra Loop and since it got punctured it killed everything alive on any level in the Sacramento River from just above Dunsmuir  and then 45 miles of river all the way into Shasta Dam. Not anything, no fish, no bug, no organism was left alive. However, life is back now almost 20 years later. This might happen to the area in the Gulf of Mexico once the toxic oil and dispersants have killed off most of the life there. So within a few years possibly life from other areas of the Gulf will begin to replace the life snuffed out in that area.

The following is a quote from the above web article in 1991 when the Sodium Bromide spill happened. begin quote.
The phoebe flew back and forth over the contours of a familiar eddy in the stream. Its wings beat erratically. Alighting on a rock, it moved its head about sluggishly, as if in a daze. If I could assign a mood to a bird then it was bewilderment. There was nothing to eat.
One week earlier, at quarter to ten under a new moon on Sunday, July 14th 1991, a Southern Pacific freight train was laboring up and around Cantara Loop several miles upstream. It was a long train, ninety-five cars in all and only eleven of them were loaded. The rear end of the train was weighted by six heavy gondolas full of scrap metal. Eighty-four empty cars connected the scrap metal to the payload towards the front. One of the tankers in the payload contained a soil sterilizer with the trade name Vapam, or metam sodium. As the torque of the load increased around the tight loop, an engine jumped its rails, snake-whipping the train behind it. Some of the cars were forced to the right of the rails, others to the left, gouging a quarter-mile of skid marks into the ties in the rail bed as the train came to a halt. Before it did, an engine and the tanker full of metam sodium toppled off the bridge into the Upper Sacramento River.
Looking at the site, you could imagine the panic of the train crew as the accident occurred. It's a thirty-foot drop off the bridge into the river, not a dive you'd enjoy at the throttle of a locomotive. Heart pounding, the conductor grasped his lantern and walked back to the middle of the bridge, peering over the side. A foul, eye-stinging odor rose up. The conductor hurried back to the engine, radioed headquarters and checked the manifest for the contents of the derailed tanker. It was listed only as "non-toxic, weed-killer" and the conductor informed his superiors that he's disconnecting the engine from the train and "getting the hell out of here."
Left behind was the tanker with two gashes no longer than fifteen inches apiece. A green milky ooze poured out of them both into the finest stretch of wild trout fishery in California.
As a fisherman who had never fished that stretch of river, I took the news of the spill as a hard loss. The image of 45 miles of dead river took hold of me. Fishermen are acutely aware of the biological aliveness of the waters they fish. In ocean salmon fishing, we look for a particular color of water, "dirty water" and "slicks" which signal a biological richness which draws in plankton, krill, bait fish and therefore salmon. In steelhead fishing the color of the water becomes glowing aquamarine after the heavy winter rains wash the sediment out of the tributaries. There is a particular color we are looking for, and if it isn't there, we don't fish.
I thought I might learn something about biological "aliveness" if I could see what a dead river looked like. After thinking about it I realized that I did know what a dead river looks like. I'm from Philadelphia. But I've never seen a freshly-murdered river. So Ed and I, who had fished many north coast rivers for steelhead, took a break from the summer ocean salmon fishing to drive to the Lake Shasta area and take a look around. end quote.

So, since Sodium Bromide killed 45 miles of the Sacramento River and literally everything died it now has life in it again. Sure, some species that were unique likely went extinct. Were they all categorized before they died? Maybe and maybe not. Is there new stuff there now that wasn't before? Yes.
This is also likely what will eventually happen in the Gulf of Mexico long term. However, it is hard to say now when that will be.

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