Friday marked the closing of phase II of BP’s trial to determine how much oil leaked into the Gulf after the 2010 oil spill, and the fine BP will face under the Clean Water Act. While government officials estimate 176 million gallons spewed from the Macondo well, BP attorneys have urged U.S. District Court Judge Barbier to set the number at 103 million gallons. Fines under the Clean Water Act could reach up to $18 billion if the government stands by their estimation. If BP’s figured are used, that number could be reduced to around $10.5 billion. The difference in estimations has been a complex and controversial matter throughout the investigation.
BP attributes the difference in estimates to what researchers identify as a shift between oil and gas leakage, ultimately meaning that oil did not spew consistently. The company called this phenomenon ‘slug flow’, and used this explanation as the basis for the lower estimate.
Judge Barbier is not expected to assign penalties to BP until early next year after the third phase of trial is completed.
With interesting timing, the U.S. Coast Guard discovered a tar mat weighing approximately 4,100 pounds off of the Louisiana coast. Workers are currently working to clean up the mess and are actively searching for nearby tar mats.
Despite the three year lapse since the 2010 BP oil spill, tar balls and tar mats such as these continue to wash up on coast lines all along the Gulf, reminding coastal counties of the damage done to the environment and local economies.
Researchers point out that the full scope of damage from the tar mats is still unclear. What they do know is the tar contains a bacterium that causes a fatal seafood contamination called Vibrio vulnificus. This in conjunction with the Corexit, the chemical product used to clean up the oil, holds carcinogenic pollutants that are easily absorbed by human epidermis, and result in serious health complications