On Saturday, June 25th, Vanishing Earth reported 5 new pollution incidents to the National Response Center (NRC) based on aerial observations while in flight with our allies at Southwings.org. Our flight took us down river from New Orleans Lakefront airport to the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River at South Pass, and back. (See map below for flight path and photos).
The first incident, Incident # 1151620, was discovered offshore in the Gulf and was reported to the NRC as an oil leak from an unknown source. What we observed and documented were patches of rainbow sheen on the surface coming from the direction of multiple offshore platforms, wells, and pipelines and heading toward East Bay.
The second incident, Incident # 1151621, was discovered inland in open water about 5 miles to the west northwest of Buras, Louisiana near Bayou Long and reported to the NRC as an oil leak from an unknown source. Patches of rainbow sheen from an unknown source were spotted on the surface floating to the southeast.
The third incident, Incident # 1151622, was discovered in a pipeline canal near the town of Port Sulphur, Louisiana and reported as an oil leak suspected to be coming from a leaking pipeline (unconfirmed at this time). In the canal we observed and documented about a quarter mile rainbow sheen in the water and along the edge of the marsh.
The fourth incident, Incident # 1151623, was discovered in the Mississippi River at the United Bulk Terminal (UBT). UBT is a massive coal and petroleum coke export facility where product is loaded onto barges and ocean going vessels and shipped domestically and overseas. We reported this leak to the NRC as the illegal discharge of coal and petroleum coke.
The fifth incident, Incident # 1151624, was discovered in the Mississippi River at the Kinder Morgan International Marine Terminal (IMT). IMT is a massive coal and petroleum coke export facility where product is loaded onto barges and ocean going vessels and shipped domestically and overseas. We reported this leak to the NRC as the illegal discharge of coal and petroleum coke.
All of the areas where we discovered these pollution incidents are vital natural habitat for countless species of fish, crustaceans, birds, and mammals etc. Moreover, they are critical areas for our commercial fisheries such as shrimping, crabbing and oyster leases. Our economy depends on these areas to be healthy and free from toxic pollutants.
None of the leaks we discovered Saturday would be considered by the USCG as major spills simply based on the sizes of the sheen we observed and reported. However, given that many of these areas are remotely located it is possible that any one of these small leaks could turn into a much bigger leak if left unchecked. Moreover, there is no way for us to know how long any of these leaks were occurring or how long they may have leaked before someone reported them.
After we reported these leaks to the NRC, we spoke directly with the local USCG investigators and provided geotagged photos to assist with any investigation. On Saturday night we were told that USCG would be launching an overflight based on our reports. We will let you know what they found if and when we are provided with that information.
Jonathan Henderson, Vanishing Earth.