Settlement can’t replace damages to habitat, wildlife

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Viewpoint by Riley Stephens

As I read about the U.K.-based oil company BP settling for $4.5 billion for damage to all forms of industry along the Gulf of Mexico caused when the Deepwater Horizon well cap blew April 20, 2010, I wanted to ask company officials why the leak happened in the first place.

Traveling through the Gulf Coast states four months later on a trip with reporters and photographers of The Ranger, the smell of oil and the sight of sand covered by black tar made it clear that the loss of habitat was severe.

Hearing stories from locals who had to temporarily relocate away from the beaches was disheartening.

Riley Stephens reports on the aftermath of the BP oil spill Aug. 18, 2010, on Dauphin Island, Ala.  File photo

Riley Stephens reports on the aftermath of the BP oil
spill Aug. 18, 2010, on Dauphin Island, Ala. File photo

Special helicopters and contractors were hired to maintain the beaches and to look for oil washing up on the sand.

A cleanup crew was called when oil was spotted.

Machines were used to push mounds of thick black and white sand to the back of the beach where it piled high enough to block the view of houses.

A 13-year-old boy on Grand Island, La., said he and his grandpa usually fished at the beach but because of a ban imposed since the spill, they were only able to fish in the water next to the roads.

It was hard to see his sadness and know there was nothing I could do to help.

The poisonous crude damaged the food chain.

There was so much leakage from the spill that scientists could not even begin to estimate the damage to wildlife habitats.

Pictures of dolphins with black gunk in their mouths and turtles washed up on beaches flooded the Internet.

Though the number of Loggerhead turtles returning to the beach was declining, some were nesting on the beaches.

This gave scientists hope for a chance to save the species and volunteers began to corral the nests into a square area for their safety.

It is hoped that with human intervention, Gulf state habitats can be saved, but it will be years before anyone knows if the clean up was successful or whether so much more was lost than BP could ever replace.


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