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2012 May 22 Tuesday

Gulf of Mexico, Taylor Energy site and on to the Macondo area, Green Canyon, and south of Grand Isle

Today we flew to the Taylor Energy site, then the Macondo area, then southwestward toward Green Canyon as far as incoming convective weather permitted, then northward toward Grand Isle, and finally back to the Taylor Energy site before returning to New Orleans.  Aboard our plane was Dr. Ian MacDonald from Florida State University.  A team of scientists including two of Dr. MacDonald's students was on a boat launched from Venice, with the purpose of carefully collecting samples of the slick at the Taylor Energy site for later analysis. A second pilot and plane came along just to look at the Taylor Energy site and to help guide the boat to good sampling locations.  We gave the boat crew one of our aviation handhelds to faciliate reliable communication with the aircraft, and the boat crew felt they had been quite successful in obtaining excellent samples for analysis.  Thanks go to Dan Tonsmeire of Waterkeepers Alliance for arranging and finding funds to help cover the boat and second plane and its photographer John Wathen, and hopefully some of On Wings Of Care's expenses as well.

We have documented the chronic oil leakage at the Taylor Energy site just 12 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana numerous times in the past year.  The former platform was damaged and sunk by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, taking with it the twisted remains of over 20 pipelines.  To date, only five of those leaking pipelines have been plugged or repaired.  Taylor Energy supposedly sold its holdings in this site in 2008 to Korean National Oil and Samsung, but somehow the signatures weren't obtained to complete the sale, so apparently Mrs. Taylor and her company remain responsible for this chronic pollution site.  In recent months, an NRC report has been filed approximately every other day by some unidentified "aerial observation" which reports the observed extent of the surface slick at this location and provides an estimate of the volume of oil present.  Strangely enough, while the surface area dimensions reported tend to be low but not terribly inconsistent with what we've observed, the volume estimates are absurdly low. The volume estimates imply an assumption for the average thickness of the visible sheen to be on the order of 4-40 nanometers.  Yes, that's 4-40 thousandths of a micron, no more than 1/25th the diameter of a typical human hair. Whoever that unidentified aerial observer is must have high-resolution, powerful multiband spectrometers for eyes, to see and quantify a sheen so thin!

So why are they chronically under-reporting the volume of this long-standing, very ugly, oil pollution incident?  Is someone duping Mrs. Taylor? Or is Mrs. Taylor duping the US Coast Guard? We have been asking questions of the USCG in Morgan City, and we hope to learn more in the coming week.  One thing there is no disputing: this chronic, egregious pollution has gone on far too long.








Read the full article with photos and videos here!