Bitterness and anger still spill over from BP's blackest day
Families of the 11 men killed in the Deepwater Horizon oilrig disaster will today mark the first anniversary of their loss with a flyover of the Gulf of Mexico site where their loved ones died and the world's worst accidental marine spill began.
Transocean, owner and operator of the now sunken rig, has laid on helicopters to allow relatives to circle the spot where it once stood, 50 miles off Louisiana's coastline, before flying them back for an evening memorial service.
The commemoration will form a solemn centrepiece to a day that will bring mixed emotions for people along America's Gulf Coast, where some communities have bounced back from the 206 million-gallon oil s pill last year but others still face crisis.
There are still 2,000 workers cleaning up the oil, down from last year's peak of 48,000. Beaches have been relaid and tourists are back in resorts. But there are also concerns about what lies beneath the waves, the effects of the 1.8m gallons of chemical dispersant, the possible damage to marine breeding cycles and the possibility of years of environmental repercussions.
"Some people think it was a reasonably small amount, there's nothing to worry about. But what scientists are concerned about are not only what are the lingering impacts of the oil that's now probably sinking into the soil underneath the Gulf of Mexico, as it did in Prince William Sound (Alaska] after the Exxon Valdez disaster, but what are the ongoing, chronic, long-term effects," said Professor Bob Thomas, director of the centre for environmental communication at Loyola University, New Orleans. "It's still a very complicated issue."
The Deepwater Horizon rig erupted in flames on the night of 20 April, 2010, after problems in the well one mile down on the seabed sent a ball of gas rushing to the surface.
BP and other companies involved in the well's construction and the rig's operation face more than 300 lawsuits from victims, ranging from relatives of the 11 dead workers to businesses that lost their livelihoods because of the resulting spill.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Feinberg, the administrator of the $20 billion (12.3bn) fund set up by BP to compensate individuals and businesses for their economic losses, has come under fire from thousands still waiting for pay-outs.
One Alabama congressman denounced him as a "miser." BP has accused him of being too generous with their money. In between are the 176,000 claimants who have received a total of $3.8bn (2.3bn).
"Some people got good money and some people didn't get anything, and this guy Feinberg who's running things ... well, a lot of people want to hang him up," said Stanley Thibodeaux, a retired fisherman in Crown Point, Louisiana.
Every affected gulf community has hard luck stories; in Grand Isle, there's the 76-year-old restaurant owner on stress medication because her business is still down 40 per cent and the charter boat captain who had to take out a loan just to pay his taxes.
In Buras, Randy Lambert, owner of Louisiana's biggest hunting and fishing lodge, spent $7,000 hiring an accountant to prove and document how his business lost $1.1 million.
He got paid $211,000 from the BP fund. "It's lawyers next," he said.
Yet BP also created "spillionaires", the name given to people, companies or organisations that creamed profit from the process, such as contractors who charged the company wildly inflated rates for clean-up services. The inequities of the system have also caused tensions within communities, pitting those who were compensated against those who were not.
Rocky Kistner of the Natural Resources Defence Council moved to Buras from Washington in May last year to become the group's oil spill point-man.
"I have lived with these people 11 months and these are tough, hard, loyal people - fishing types, not environmentalists - and they all think this thing is totally screwed up," he said.
"The country thinks this problem has gone away but far from it."
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