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Waste and pollution

Case study: Gulf of Mexico oil spill and BP

On 20 April 2010 a deepwater oil well exploded in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf of Mexico Oil spill location map

The immediate effect was that it killed 11 people and injured 17 others. Oil leaked at a high rate which is difficult to calculate. Some estimates are around 40,000 barrels a day. The oil spill posed risks to the environment and affected local industry.

The impact this oil spill was depended on which parts of the coastline you look at. It is difficult to measure the effects because of seasonal changes in wildlife.

Economic impact

  • The government asked for $20 billion in damages from BP and BP's share price fell.
  • Local industries, such as fishing was threatened. There was a ban on fishing in the water.
  • Tourism declined.

Environmental impact

Gulf of Mexico oil spill rescue, 2010

Environmental worker rescuing an oil-covered pelican

  • Plants and animals were completely covered in the oil. Seabirds, sea turtles and dolphins have been found dead.
  • Oil that entered wetland areas meant recovery would be slow.
  • Fish stocks were harmed, and productivity decreased.

The size of the oil spill was one of the largest America had seen. However because the oil entered warm waters, organisms in the water helped to breakdown the oil. The overall effect may be less than Exxon Valdez Oil spill in 1989 which happened in colder water.

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