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Friday, April 20, 2012

Two Years After Spill, Troubles Remain for Gulf Coast Residents

Two years ago today, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed eleven people and resulted the release of massive amounts of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In the months that followed, 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersants were also pumped into Gulf waters as part of the cleanup effort.

At the time, many people raised significant concerns about the short and long-term environmental impact of the oil and chemicals flooding the ecosystem, and of the damage that could occur both to the livelihoods of Gulf residents and to the health and well-being of clean-up workers. Others – including Alliance for Justice – raised concerns with BP’s offer of one-time settlement payouts that were based on their guess of how quickly fisheries would recover from the disaster.

Now, two years later, all those concerns appear to have been well-founded.

When fishermen resumed their trade soon after the disaster in 2010, many of the fish they were catching had open lesions and atypical coloring. After two years, multiple deformities are still being found in fish and shrimp caught in the Gulf, raising concerns not only about food safety, but about the ability of Gulf Coast residents to resume their livelihoods even years after the spill.
Discovering eyeless shrimp, lesioned fish and other mutated and underdeveloped seafood, fisherman in the Gulf are pointing fingers at the BP spill. Biologist Dr. Darryl Felder told the news agency that Gulf seafood populations are dropping at alarming rates and that species richness is "diminished.
"The Gulf Restoration Network's Scott Eust explained the bizarre shrimp deformities. "We have some evidence of deformed shrimp, which is another developmental impact. So, that shrimp's grandmother was exposed to oil while the mother was developing, but it's the grandchild of the shrimp that was exposed grows up with no eyes."

Anticipating that the impact of the disaster would continue to be felt long after the initial damage was done, AFJ worked hard to advocate for legal solutions that would let Gulf Coast residents retain their right to hold BP accountable for the damage done to their health and businesses, and to be compensated for loss of income due to the long-term environmental impact of the spill.

Our award-winning short film Crude Justice laid out the legal challenges facing residents as they decided whether or not to accept the one-time settlements offered by BP.

This week, after an audit from the Department of Justice, BP agreed to an additional $64 million in settlements with Gulf Coast residents whose earlier claims were wrongfully denied or miscalculated. That’s certainly welcome news to the thousands of families affected.

However, as we saw this week, it’s obvious that the spill will continue to have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of Gulf Coast residents. It’s a clear reminder how important it is to stand up for individuals’ rights when they’re trying to hold corporations accountable for their actions. After two years, let’s not forget the struggles Gulf Coast residents are still facing.

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