BP oil spills lasting effects still need to be addressed

Friday marks the two-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and sent nearly 200 million gallons of British Petroleum (BP) oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for three months.

Though BP officials still insist that they met obligations to the communities in the Gulf Coast region, according to The Guardian, and a government report claims the spill posed only a slight risk, according to the New York Times, there is still much work to be done to reverse economic and ecological devastation.

Scientists and fishermen told Al-Jazeera that shrimp without eyes, crabs without laws and mutated fish with oozing sores or tumors are among victims of the spill.

Though an official statement to Al-Jazeera from BP said seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is among the most tested in the world, and, according to the FDA and NOAA, it is as safe now as it was before the accident, a recent USF study found that in many Gulf areas, 20 percent of fish had lesions, and in some areas, as many as 50 percent had them. In the Gulfs impacted areas there is a 2 to 5 percent infection rate among more than 20 species of fish, the study said.

And sick fish wont just affect Gulf communities. According to CNN, the tourism, oil, fishing and shipping industries in the Gulf of Mexico generated $234 billion in economic activity annually before the spill. The Gulf area is responsible for 90 percent of the nations offshore oil and gas, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and one-third of its seafood.

If the ailing sea life in the Gulf is ignored, the U.S. economy could face a tremendous blow.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice Wednesday asking for 80 percent of BP fines and penalties to be dedicated to Gulf recovery. Yet, according to the Tampa Bay Times, Congress only fines $1,100 to $4,300 per 42-gallon barrel spilled and a law places a $75 million cap on a companys economic liability for a spill.

BP has pledged $1 billion toward restoration projects in four Gulf states, including Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times, and settled Wednesday for $7.8 billion with more than 100,000 plaintiffs who incurred economic, property or medical damages from the spill, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Yet the money hardly seems comparable to the damage done. According to Business Week, plaintiffs will receive between $900 and $7,750 from the settlement, though many, particularly those in Louisiana, have lost millions.

According to the Times, scientists predict that the full ecological impact of the spill and the 1.8 million gallons of dispersants meant to dissolve the oil wont be fully evident for another 20 years. USF marine scientist David Hollander warns the spill is a scenario that, although it was the first time, it will probably not be the last time.

Those responsible for the damage to the gulf must act quickly to minimize the effects the spill will have on future generations.