Oil Slick Near Venice, Louisiana – Photos Identify Possible Source

Photo of oil slick and platform in Breton Sound, taken during Gulf Monitoring Consortium overflight on June 10, 2011. Photo courtesy SouthWings / Gulf Restoration Network.

Here is a small gallery of photos of the slick near Venice taken during today’s Gulf Monitoring Consortium overflight.  This definitely looks like an oil slick, and it looks like our friends at SouthWings and Gulf Restoration Network may have pinned down the source – this slick is obviously emanating from a small, unmanned platform.  We’re trying to get the GPS coordinates from the flight so we can nail down the platform ID.  Stay tuned.

Oil Slick Reported Near Venice, Louisiana – Update

We’re homing in. It looks like news reports placing the slick “about 2 miles southeast of Baptiste Collette [Bayou]” were a bit misleading.  NRC report 978985 filed on June 8 contains that same description, but also a precise latitude/longitude location that actually places it 2 miles north-northeast of the mouth of the bayou, about 4 miles west-southwest of the southern tip of the Chandeleur Islands (Breton National Wildlife Refuge).

The oil-slick sample collected by National Wildlife Federation scientists, that shows the oil to be relatively fresh crude not related to the BP spill, was taken on June 8 from a point just two-tenths of a mile away, so we’re pretty confident they actually sampled the slick that has been in the news:

What’s not clear yet: Where is the cleanup activity taking place?  And what was the source of this spill?  The area is chock-full of old platforms and pipelines; some of the pipelines are shown in yellow on the map above. The NRC spill reports in the area don’t shed much light on a possible source, if you take at face value the spill amounts in those reports (by the way, Anglo-Suisse:  how’s that investigation coming along?)

Our Gulf Monitoring Consortium partners, SouthWings, conducted an overflight of the area this afternoon with a passenger from Gulf Restoration Network, using the coordinates we provided.  They observed a small slick in the same location as NRC report 978985 and NWF sample. GRN will be blogging and posting the pics shortly.

Even more interesting: they encountered a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction) zone over the area.  The SouthWings pilot was permitted to enter, and tells us that unmanned aerial drones (UAVs) were operating in the area.  Cool!  Hopefully the Coast Guard is using those drones, which means they are really upping their game  and bringing some high-tech tools into oil spill investigation.

We hope that’s the case.  If so: polluters beware.  It’s getting a lot tougher to hide what you do.

Oil Slick Reported Near Venice, Louisiana

The Gulf Monitoring Consortium has been investigating a reported spill near Venice, Louisiana that’s been in the news since June 8. The latest: oil collected by scientists for National Wildlife Federation and analyzed by Dr. Ed Overton at Lousiana State University reveals that this is not old, remobilized oil from the BP spill last year; it is relatively fresh crude oil that fits the geochemical profile of “South Louisiana Crude” (not the same as BP’s Macondo oil). The Coast Guard is also investigating, and has a cleanup contractor onsite.

But the source of this oil remains a mystery.  MODIS satellite images for the past week haven’t revealed anything useful yet.

At SkyTruth we’re systematically mapping the official pollution reports collected by the National Response Center for the entire US, onshore and off (polluters are required by law to report their pollution immediately to the NRC; passers-by are encouraged, but not required, to report any signs of pollution). This map shows all of the NRC reports in the area since May 29.  You can use the report numbers to look them up on the NRC’s website.

Oil Slick Reported near Venice, Lousiana

We just saw this news story (video) about an oil slick possibly several miles long sighted off Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana.  According to Parish President Billy Nungesser the slick is located about 2 miles east-southeast of Baptiste Collette, across the Mississippi River from Venice.  That would put it in Buras Bayou, on the edge of the Delta National Wildlife Refuge where a Chevron/BP pipeline spilled 18,000 gallons of crude oil in early April 2010, causing widespread contamination.  There is no word yet on the possible source of the latest oil slick.

Two pollution reports were submitted to the National Response Center at 10:17 am on June 6 (report #978778) and again at 10:58 am yesterday morning (report #978893) indicating small amounts of oil spilled from a platform operated by Helis Oil and Gas Company about 20 miles to the northwest. We don’t know if this is the source of the slick being reported today near Venice. Yesterday afternoon’s low-resolution MODIS satellite imagery doesn’t indicate anything unusual in that area.  We’ll keep looking.

Sediment Plume in Gulf of Mexico – Big Dead Zone Ahead?

Flood waters are working their way through the lower Mississippi River system. On May 14 the Army Corps of Engineers began opening floodgates at the Morganza Spillway to divert some of the floodwater out of the Mississippi and into the adjacent Atchafalaya River to ease pressure on the downstream levees protecting Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Ten days later they began closing the gates again as the flood level on the Mississippi crested and began to recede at Morganza.

NASA/MODIS satellite image taken June 2, 2011, showing sediment plume from Atchafalaya River filling coastal bays and nearshore areas along the Louisiana coast, west of the Mississippi Delta.

This diversion of sediment-laden river water intentionally flooded parts of the much less densely populated Atchafalaya Basin.  It also has shifted a lot of the sediment and other gunk that normally would flow down the Mississippi and be released in deep Gulf of Mexico waters at the mouths of the Mississippi Delta, to the shallow coastal waters of western Louisiana and eastern Texas. This plume of runoff from all the farms, cities and sewers of the nation’s midsection is responsible for the annual appearance of an oxygen-deficient “dead zone” in the central Gulf.  There are concerns now that this year’s dead zone will be larger than ever, and will have more of a direct impact on the coastal waters that support an important fishing industry working to recover from last year’s catastrophic oil spill.