PORT FOURCHON, Louisiana (AP) – Photos show what appears to be a mile-long oil slick near an offshore platform in the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida, according to aerial survey images released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and reviewed by The Associated Press.
Government footage, along with additional photos taken by AP from a helicopter on Tuesday, also show ports, oil refineries and shipyards in Louisiana on the way to the storm where the rainbow glow – Typical oil and fuel spill sky is visible in the water of bays and bayous. .
State and federal regulators said on Wednesday they were unable to reach the affected area, citing the harsh conditions in the disaster area.
NOAA photos show a black slick floating in the gulf near a large rig with the name Enterprise Offshore Drilling painted on its helipad. The Houston-based company did not immediately respond to requests for comment by phone or email on Wednesday.
Aerial photos taken by NOAA on Tuesday also show significant flooding at the massive Phillips 66 Alliance refinery along the bank of the Mississippi River just south of New Orleans. In some sections of the refinery, rainbow reflections are visible on the water leading towards the river.
Asked Monday about reports of dike failures near the refinery, Phillips 66 spokesman Bernardo Fallas said there was “water” in the refinery and stressed operations had were arrested before the storm. Asked Tuesday about the potential environmental risks emanating from the facility, Fallas referred a reporter to a statement posted on the company’s website, saying his response focused “on the safety and well-being of our employees and surrounding communities “.
After AP sent Phillips 66 photos on Wednesday showing extensive flooding at its refinery and what appeared to be oil in the water, Fallas conceded by email that the company could confirm it had “discovered a shard of unknown origin in some flooded areas of the Alliance refinery “.
“At the moment, the shard appears to be secure and contained within the refinery grounds,” Fallas said Wednesday evening. “Cleaning teams are on site. The incident was reported to the appropriate regulatory agencies upon discovery. “
Fallas did not immediately respond if the leak was reported after AP sent the company photos four hours earlier.
Phillips put the Alliance refinery up for sale last week, before the storm hit, citing poor market conditions.
A total of seven Louisiana refineries remained closed on Wednesday. Together, they represent about 9% of all US refining capacity, according to the US Department of Energy. Some refineries in Mississippi have reported damage to their docks caused by barges that came loose during the storm.
Jennah Durant, spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency, said on Wednesday that the agency had not received any reports of major spills or other environmental threats after the Category 4 storm made landfall in Port Fourchon on Sunday with winds of 150 mph (240 km / h)
Three days after the storm passed, Durant said Wednesday that no EPA personnel had yet been deployed to the devastated area south of New Orleans. When asked if EPA staff reviewed aerial photos taken by federal planes over the disaster area, Durant said the images were not provided to the agency.
The aerial imagery reviewed by the AP is readily available to the public on the NOAA website.
After AP sent photos of the oil spill to the EPA on Wednesday, the agency’s press secretary Nick Conger said the National Response Center hotline operated by the US Coast Guard received 26 calls reporting leaks or spills in the storm area, but none had warranted a response from the EPA.
Conger said any person or organization responsible for a release or spill is required to notify the federal government when the amount reaches a limit determined by the federal government.
AP also provided photos of the oil slick to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, which regulates offshore drilling in state waters. Spokesman Patrick Courreges confirmed the agency had received an informal report of oil shards in the waters south of Port Fourchon, but said regulators “currently do not have the means to deal with it yet. to return”.
State and federal environmental regulators said the emergency response in Ida was hampered by blocked roads, washed-out bridges, power outages and a lack of communications. Landlines and mobile phone service in much of the region went offline on Wednesday.
“I think most of the agencies are sort of caught in the ‘fog of war’ right now, with a lot more places we need to be than we can be,” Courreges wrote in an e -mail. “It’s not that easy to react to things right now.”
Port Fourchon, which was directly affected by the storm, is the main service center for hundreds of offshore oil and gas platforms. The port also contains oil terminals and pipelines which account for about 90% of the Gulf’s oil and gas production.
Photos taken by AP from a chartered helicopter on Tuesday, along with images from NOAA, show extensive damage to the sprawling facility, including sunken ships, collapsed structures and more than a dozen large tanks of spilled fuel storage.
Ida’s winds, equivalent to an EF3 tornado, tore the roofs of tall steel buildings in the harbor and knocked over metal light poles. Trucks, cranes and shipping containers were piled up in a jumble.
Chett Chiasson, executive director of the Grand Lafourche Port Commission, told AP on Tuesday evening that Port Fourchon-based companies were entering what would likely be a long recovery phase. A top priority, he said, will be clearing the roads and removing sunken ships so that boats can safely navigate the port.
Associated Press investigative reporter Michael Biesecker reported from Washington. PA reporters Matthew Daly in Washington and David Koenig in Dallas contributed.
Follow Biesecker on http://twitter.com/mbieseck
Contact the AP Global Investigation Team at [email protected]
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