toxic gas leaked from a pesticide plant in Bhopal,, Deepwater Horizon/ oil spill , Chernobyl
Nuclear Power Plant Explosion, 1986, Seveso are a few of the names that have
entered the lexicon of devastation wrought by the foolishness of mankind. These devastation are one of the worst
man-made examples of environmental disasters in the world.
The Deep water Horizon oil spill June 2010
The Deepwater Horizon/ oil spill or BP oil spill or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a massive ongoing oil spill
in the Gulf of Mexico considered the largest offshore spill in U.S.
history. Some estimates placed it by late May or early June, 2010, as among the largest oil spills
in the world with tens of millions of gallons spilled to date.
The spill stems from a sea floor 10,000 foot deep oil gusher that resulted from the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon
drilling rig explosion The explosion killed 11 platform workers and injured 17 others
The oil slick as seen from space by NASA Terra > satellite on May 24, 2010.
The gusher, now estimated to be flowing at 20,000 to 40,000 barrels (840,000 to
1,700,000 US gallons; 3,200 to 6,400 cubic metres) of crude oil per day originates from a deepwater wellhead 5,000 feet (1,500 m) below the ocean surface.
The resulting oil slick covers a surface area of at least 2,500 square miles (6,500 km^2 ), with the exact size
and location of the slick fluctuating from day to day depending on weather conditions. Experts fear that the
spill will result in an environmental disaster with extensive impact already on marine and wildlife
The spill has also damaged the Gulf of Mexico fishing and tourism industries.
There have been a variety of ongoing efforts to stem the flow of oil at the wellhead Crews have been working to protect
hundreds of miles of beaches, wetlands and estuaries along the northern Gulf coast, using skimmer ships,
floating containment booms , anchored barriers, and sand-filled barricades along shorelines. The U.S.
Government has named BP as the responsible party in the incident, and officials have said the
company will be held accountable for all cleanup costs resulting from the oil spill.
On May 4, the U.S Coast Guard estimated that 170 vessels, and nearly
7,500 personnel were involved in the cleanup efforts, with an additional
2,000 volunteers assisting On April 28, the US military announced it was joining the cleanup operation.
The Obama administration sent a $69 million bill to BP for the U.S.
government's clean up effort. There has been a great deal of critcism of BP both in the US and
worldwide for its role in the oil spill. Across the US, thousands of people participated in dozens of protests at BP gas
stations and other locations.
Bhopal Gas Leak tragedy
On a December morning in 1984, a cloud of toxic gas leaked from a
pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killing more than 3,000 people in a span of days and poisoning hundreds of thousands more in the years to
come. The Indian government’s count of fatalities caused by the accident
stands at about 15,000, making it the deadliest man-made environmental disaster in history.
Bhopal Union Carbide plant
The initial cloud of gas at Bhopal killed livestock and
stripped trees bare in and around the densely populated slums that immediately surrounded the plant, the worst environmental impact of the
explosion in Bhopal was more nefarious: Still after 25 years later we found dangerous chemicals stored haphazardly at the former
factory. Groundwater was contaminated to levels known to cause serious
health problems, but locals were drinking water they believed to be toxic because they had no other choice.
After 25 years, a Bhopal court sentenced former Union Carbide India chairman Keshub
Mahindra and six others to two years imprisonment each in the gas tragedy case, nearly 26 years after world's worst industrial disaster left over 15,000 dead.
The verdict has come under attack from civil rights activists and political parties.
After India, the fight to get justice for Bhopal victims has
reached the US as activists try to build public awareness about the industrial disaster.
They are demanding the extradition of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to India and want Obama administration to take the same strong
stand that it has taken against British Petroleum for the oil spill.
London’s ‘Great Smog,’ 1952
For four days in December 1952, a thick, acid-infused smog engulfed
London like an overturned saucer. Stagnant air trapped fumes from coal stoves, gas-burning cars, and industrial emissions. Day turned to
darkness, and visibility dropped, at times, to a mere foot. An estimated
4,000 people died in a single month from the immediate effects of the toxic air on their respiratory system, while 8,000 additional deaths
were later attributed to the smog. Sulfur dioxide in the air was believed to be the main culprit.
Much of what is known about this awful spell of air pollution documents
its devastating impact on humans—written accounts make little mention of
long-term environmental harm. The smog did spur the British Parliament
to pass the Clean Air Act, allowing authorities to control the use of
coal fuel in certain areas to mitigate the risk of future smog.
Ixtoc Blowout, 1979
News reports on the 1979 blowout of an undersea oil well off the Gulf of
Mexico seem all too familiar today. There was a failure of the “blowout
preventer,” an undersea fail-safe device that is supposed to close off a
gushing pipe. There were frustrated reports about the Mexican government
vastly underestimating the volume of oil gushing from the seabed, much like the lowball guesses from BP in April
Day after day for a span of 10 months, a torrent of oil rushed into the
Gulf of Mexico after the initial explosion near the Yucatan Peninsula.
The spill was checked only in part by a cap that was lowered over the
leak to siphon off a portion of the flow. After four months an oil slick
had covered about half of Texas’s 370-mile gulf shoreline, devastating
tourism. Only by drilling two relief wells to connect to the initial
hole, then pumping mud and concrete into the gushing pipe could
Petroleos Mexicanos, or PeMex, Mexico’s national oil company, stop the leak.
By the easiest measure—volume of oil spilled—PeMex’s Ixtoc I oil well
was far worse than the Deepwater Horizon well: 140 million gallons of
oil poured out of the Mexican well, compared to the estimated 94.2
million gallons that could escape from the well near Louisiana by
mid-August, when a relief well is expected to be complete. (The worst
oil spill in history occurred in 1991, when the Iraqi army ripped apart
Kuwait’s oil infrastructure and released more than 252 million gallons
during the Persian Gulf War. The Exxon Valdez crash in 1989 released 10.9 million gallons.)
But unlike Deepwater Horizon, the Ixtoc I disaster occurred in 150 feet
of water and a fortunate turn in winds and currents mitigated its impact
on the coastline. Today, researchers using submersibles continue to
detect massive plumes of oil rising from the depths. No one has ever
observed what happens when oil gushes from the sea floor 5,000 feet down
and residents along the entire gulf coast are still nervously awaiting
what currents and winds Mother Nature has in store this summer.
Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Explosion, 1986
In April 1986 an explosion at the core of a nuclear reactor at the
Chernobyl power station released more than 50 tons of radioactive material into the atmosphere above Ukraine. About 350,000 people had to
be evacuated from the area, leaving villages and an entire city, Prypriat, abandoned. Estimates of deaths and radiation-related illnesses
from the incident vary widely: a United Nations study found that by 2005
there had been 59 deaths directly related to the incident while Ukrainian officials have said that during the cleanup following
the blast, more than 4,000 people died and 70,000 were disabled by radiation-related illness.
The precise causes of the accident are still uncertain, but it is
generally believed that the series of incidents that led to the explosion, fire and nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl was caused by a
combination of reactor design flaws and operator error.
On July 10, 1976 a contaminated vapors of tetrachlorodibenzoparadioxin (TCCD) is released from a pesticide plant in the
town of Seveso, Italy. Nearly 37,000 people were exposed to the highest
levels ever recorded of a dioxin, a class of chemicals believed to be poisonous and carcinogenic even in micro-doses. Over 600 people were
evacuated and several thousand were treated for dioxin poisoning, evidenced mainly by severe cases of chloracne. Over 80,000 animals were
slaughtered to prevent the toxins entering food chains.