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Strange Smell Affecting Florida’s Gulf Coast Might be From Oil Rig Disaster

Posted on May 03, 2010 by bp complaints

Southwest Floridians were wondering why strong odors of color crayons were wafting about late Monday night. Some described the smell as melting plastic or lamp oil. Complaints and concerns came from Cape Coral to Everglades City and everywhere in between.

Strong winds from the west since Sunday could connect the odor to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week. “It’s certainly a possibility,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Barron, quoted the Naples Daily News. He said winds are expected to turn today from out of the north.


Crews have been in a quandary how to stop thousands of barrels of oil from pouring into the ocean. The spill is now within 20 miles of Venice, Louisiana and covers an area as wide as 42 miles across, and up to 80 miles in length with long reddish-orange ribbons of oil.

On Tuesday, officials speculated the slick would not reach land for a few days due to wind conditions. Exactly where along the Gulf Coast it will first arrive is still a guess. Environmentalists and others fear oyster beds, delicate wetlands, and sugary white beaches could all be damaged.

“If we don’t secure this well, this could be one of the most significant oil spills in U.S. history,” said Rear Adm. Mary Landry yesterday, quoted the Naples Daily News.

The April 20 blast destroyed the Deepwater Horizon, which was drilling about 50 miles southeast of Venice, La. Eleven missing workers are presumed dead, and the cause of the explosion is still unknown.

According to the Naples Daily News, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released a statement Tuesday prompted by odor complaints throughout the Gulf coast area. They are measuring air quality at their monitoring stations, but say no “abnormal result” for particulate matter is indicated at this time.

However, the DEP’s stations do not measure VOCs, volatile organic compounds, that would be produced in an oil rig fire. The Pinellas County air quality division did take VOC readings at its monitoring stations and is expecting results later this week, said the DEP, wrote the Naples Daily News.

The last major oil spill in the Gulf was in June 1979, when the offshore drilling rig Ixtoc I blew up in Mexican waters, dumping 140 million gallons of oil before the well was capped in March 1980. A lot of spillage contaminated Texas shorelines and U.S. waters.

“In the worst-case scenario, this could also last months,”said Richard Haut, a senior research scientist at the Houston Advanced Research Center. A twenty year veteran of Exxon, Haut spent 10 of those years on an offshore platform in the North Sea, according to the Naples Daily News.

Presently, thousands of egrets, brown pelicans, and other birds are nesting on barrier islands near the rig’s wreckage. Billions of fish eggs and larvae coating the Gulf’s surface are also threatened.

If the well cannot be closed, about 4.2 million gallons of oil could pour into the Gulf before workers can drill a relief well. The Exxon Valdez, America’s worst oil disaster, leaked 11 million gallons into Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989.


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