Oil Spill! Oil Spill! Sheen! Sheen!

By Anna Hrybyk, LABB Program Manager

Reposted from Louisiana Bucket Brigade:

Fresh from our first Flash Mob shouting “Sheen!” and dancing the Crude-Step 2-Step to Stomp out the Stink on Frenchmen Street, on Monday September 10th, I flew over several oil spills and sheens in the lower Mississippi Delta courtesy of Southwings with volunteer pilot Skipper T.

On August 28, 2012 we released a map showing the state’s oil and gas infrastructure that was vulnerable to Hurricane Isaac’s winds and surge.

On September 6, 2012 we released a map of all the oil and gas accidents reported by facilities resulting from Hurricane Isaac.  By that date, we had recorded 93 accidents attributed to Hurricane Isaac.  But today as I write this that number is now 111 accidents.

On the flyover, I was joined by Jonathan Henderson of Gulf Restoration Network and a photographer from the Lower Mississippi Riverkeepers.

Our flight path started in New Orleans and flew over:

  1. Chalmette Refining
  2. The town of Braithwaite
  3. Stolthaven Chemical Plant, Braithwaite
  4. Chevron Oronite
  5. Phillips 66 Refinery, Belle Chasse
  6. Kinder Morgan Coal Terminal/United Coal Terminal
  7. Breton Sound Area
  8. Pass a la Loutre
  9. Taylor Energy well
  10. Bayou Branquille
  11. Bay Batiste
  12. Grand Isle/Elmer’s Island

On just that short flight, we spotted six accidents leaking oily sheen from wells, platforms, pipelines and storage terminals into wetlands and the Gulf.  All of my photos from that flight can be seen on our Flikr page:


In all I submitted 10 reports to the National Response Center based on the evidence of oil industry pollution we found.  The most striking examples were:

  1. Stolthaven Chemical Plant in Braithwaite:  The railcars were overturned and a few tanks had been dislodged.  Also two large tanks did not have any roofs and appeared to contain water (we would have been able to see a sheen if it contained chemicals).  The fact that they did not have any roofs is problematic because if there is any product in those tanks it is venting freely into the atmosphere.  If these tanks have floating roofs that were inundated with water, that is also problematic because the water can tip the floating roof causing the chemical contained beneath the roof to vaporize into the air.  There was an observable sheen in the wetlands surrounding the chemical plant.  We know from a report to our iWitness Pollution Map that residents of Braithwaite are very concerned about this facility.

I am a very concerned citizen from Braithwaite, Louisiana. We live on Bazile Drive and lost our home to flood waters. I am concerned because several of my adjusters think the floodwaters contained some sort of toxic junk and now our homes are covered in it.”


2. Taylor Energy well in the Gulf of Mexico:  The wellhead that has been leaking since 2004 after Hurricane Ivan hit it, is still leaking.  The sheen stretched for miles and miles.  Will it ever stop leaking?

3. BP’s Macondo Oil:  BP’s oil is definitely still in the Gulf, it has only been sunk by chemical dispersants.  Every storm and hurricane churns up the residual oil in the Gulf and it is back on our shores.  We saw what looked like pretty fresh oil on shore at Bayou Branquille near Grand Isle.