Three years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there has been an abrupt surge in the amount of oily material collected from Louisiana’s coastline, according to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.
About three million pounds of the material—a mixture of oil, sand, shells and water—was cleaned up on the coast between March and August, compared to 119,894 pounds in the same period in 2012.
April saw a collection of more than 1.5 million pounds of oily material, the most for a one-month period.
The data was announced last Wednesday at a Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority presentation at Louisiana Gov.’s office.
Since the spill, nearly 12.2 million pounds of oily materials have been removed from Louisiana since data collection started in June 2011 but more than 200 miles of Louisiana shoreline are still oily, 14 miles of which being classified as “heavily oiled” or “moderately oiled.”
The presentation did not explain what could account for the variation in oily material, but a US Coast Guard official told the media that tropical storms, frequent around the Gulf of Mexico, moves sands around on the beaches to either cover up or expose the material.
Chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Garret Graves criticized BP for the higher numbers.
“The conventional wisdom would be that the number [of pounds of oily materials collected] should go down, obviously,” Graves told Reuters on Thursday. “But if the response was insufficient … I think the numbers speak for themselves.”
BP incident commander Danny Wallace said that the rise in the amount of oily material was due to the recovery and cleanup team changing its focus to certain hard-hit areas.
“In 2013 most cleanup activities have focused on the barrier islands where Hurricane Isaac uncovered heavily-weathered residual oil that had been buried when tropical storms deposited deep layers of sand along the shoreline in 2010 and 2011,” Wallace said, according to an article in Scientific American.
On Nov. 14, 2012, BP pled guilty to 11 felony counts of manslaughter, two misdemeanors and a felony count of lying to Congress and agreed in a $4 billion settlement to four years of government monitoring of its safety practices and ethics. They also paid $525 million to settle civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it misled their investors about the oil flow rate from the well.
BP now faces a civil suit for violations under the Clean Water Act in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Of the administrative and civil penalties from violators of the Clean Water Act, 80 percent will go to the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund under the RESTORE Act, passed by Congress in June 2012.
The civil trial is being conducted in three phases. Phase 1, completed on April 17, was to determine allocation of fault for the disaster that killed 11 oil rig workers and spilled between 103 and 176 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Phase 2 was to calculate precisely how much oil was spilled versus the amount cleaned up so far, and thus how much to fine BP.
Phase 3, which has not yet been scheduled, will focus on the environmental impact of the spill.
The second phase of the three-part trial against BP ended Oct. 18; US District Judge Carl Barbier’s ruling is not expected anytime soon.