Crews continued to work on stopping the leaking Deep Sea Horizon this week, with limited success. The new cap over the leak is capturing around 10,000 barrels of oil per day, but scientists are conflicted as to how much more is still escaping.
Experts have recently revised their estimate to nearly 40,000 barrels a day.
It has been over a month since the leaking oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and spewing thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean around it.
Job Losses and Unsafe Working Conditions:
The gulf oil spill is not only an environmental catastrophe, but an economic disaster as well. Naturally, working people will take the brunt of both on their own shoulders.
The Louisianna Oil and Gas Association estimates that Obama’s moratorium on new drilling contracts and an outright halt of drilling on 33 already operating rigs could put as many 75,000 people out of work. For every rig halted, up to 1,400 jobs are at risk.
Younger workers on the rigs are especially vulnerable. “”If we see a good deck hand with good initiative who’s got promise,” says oil rig manager Pat Matte in an interview with the Huffpost, “we talk them into going into debt, buying a house, buying a car, so they have to stay.” In this way, generation after generation of oil workers is forced to stay in the trade.
“We get them into debt. Now all our best hands are scared to death. They got a new family, new kids, just bought a car or motorcycle and we talked them into all this stuff, and they’re scared to death of losing everything. What have I done, being a supervisor who’s supposed to be teaching these boys how to live the rest of their lives?”
On top of management’s scam to bring young workers into debt, the job naturally attracts high school graduates and dropouts. Without having to go to college, young workers can enter into the industry and immediately start making good money.
Those working in the shrimp and fishing industry in the gulf are finding themselves jobless as well.
As the oil spreads further out from the rig, shrimp boats and fisherman are forced to close down their business and begin running clean-up operations at a fraction of the pay they would otherwise be recieving.
Workers helping with the cleanup, moreover, are being exposed daily to extremely dangerous chemicals.
The Los angelas Times reported that Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) has recently called on the federal government to open up mobile medical clinics to deal with workers’ increasing health problems.
Workers like George Jackson, a local fisherman who has been forced to work on cleanup crews in the Gulf since the fishing industry has been closed, have reported severe chemical burns, dizziness and lightheadedness while on the job.
“As he was laying containment booms Sunday, he said, a dark substance floating on the water made his eyes burn.
“I ain’t never run on anything like this,” Jackson said. Within seconds, he said, his head started hurting and he became nauseated.”
The EPA’s website has warned coastal residents as far as 50 miles from the oil leak that “[Some] of these chemicals may cause short-lived effects like headache, eye, nose and throat irritation, or nausea.”
BP, however, has not only refused to issue respirators to workers, but has actual forbid respirators from being used on certain job sites. Neither have they distributed gloves, suits, or any other kind of protective gear to many fisherman.
George Barisich, president of the United Commercial Fishermen’s Assn, argues that the company is not protecting workers in order to avoid ciminal liability. “[If] they give us that type of equipment then they admit there are health hazards.”
Marine toxicologist Riki Ott, who studied the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska, remarked that this tragedy was just “deja vu.”
“What we saw with Exxon Valdez was a parallel track — sick animals and sick people. Harbor seals were looking like they were drunk and dying … and autopsies showed brain lesions.…What are we exposing these poor fishermen to?”