The NRDC’s recent report on water quality at vacation beaches highlights the continuing legacy of the BP Gulf oil disaster, which killed 11 workers and spewed approximately 170 million gallons of oil and released 200,000 metric tons of methane gas into Gulf waters, affecting approximately 1,000 miles of shoreline.
The report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide To Water Quality At Vacation Beaches”, states:
More than a year later, a sorry legacy of enduring damage, people wronged, and a region scarred remains. As of the end of January, 83 miles of shoreline remained heavily or moderately oiled, and tar balls and weathered oil continue to wash ashore.
…many beaches in the region have issued oil spill advisories, closures, and notices since April of last year. As of June 15, 2011 there have been a total of 9,474 days of oil-related beach notices, advisories, and closures at Gulf Coast beaches since the spill. Louisiana has been hit the hardest, with 3,420 days as of June 15, 2011, in that state, while there were 2,245 days as of June 15, 2011, in Florida, 2,148 days in Mississippi, and 1,661 days in Alabama. State and local officials took these actions in response to oil on beaches and in coastal waters because exposure to this oil can cause a variety of adverse human health effects, including headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, eye, throat or skin irritation, difficulty breathing, and even increased cancer or neurological risks for long-term exposure.
While most of the advisories, closures, and notices that were issued last year due to the oil spill were lifted by the end of the year, cleanup crews are still at work. And the spill is still interfering with trips to the beach as oil continues to wash ashore at Gulf Coast beaches in Alabama, Louisiana, Florida and Mississippi. As of June 15, 2011, four beach segments in Louisiana that have been closed since the spill have yet to open, and three beaches in Florida have remained under oil spill notice. Besides being a beloved source of recreation for local residents, tourism at these beaches is an important part of the region’s economy. In 2004 alone, ocean tourism and recreation contributed approximately $15.4 billion to the GDP of the five Gulf states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas), so revenue lost from oil spill beach action days could be significant.