A Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality staff member assessing oil spill damage from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to the state's South Pass beach on Monday, 17 May 2010. Isaac could churn up oil that remains buried in sediment. Photo: lagohsep / flickr

By Chase Martin
4 April 2014

(LiveScience) – Florida's Gulf Coast is renowned for its soft white beaches, balmy weather, and calm, clear waters. It's also infamous for being a mecca of debris from oil-rig related tragedies, which until recently, were thought to have mostly finished their attack on Gulf-Coast beaches. But even after four years, trash from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is still washing ashore and devastating coastal environments and communities.

In February, a group from the Florida State Department of Environmental Protection discovered an 81-square-foot tar mat cruising the shallows off Pensacola beach. That's 1,250 pounds of oily garbage that slithered across almost 200 miles of seabed, damaging environments and amassing sand and marine fragments.

This is only a tiny fraction of the 200 million gallons of oil that spewed into the ocean during the 2010 oil spill, devastating ecosystems throughout the Gulf and blackening the many coastal communities that rely on these waters for their livelihood. Over 1,000 miles of beaches and wetlands were oiled. Thousands of people suffered job losses at the expense of this avoidable tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of animals perished, including marine mammals, fish stocks, seabirds and sea turtles. 

Today, scientists can still see effects of the oil spill on marine ecosystems and seemingly healthy marine life, such as heart defects in tuna and amberjack. And what's more, Florida recently filed a lawsuit with BP over damages to the state's natural resources. Along with a past economic lawsuit and $26 billion in Gulf restoration, BP certainly has had to own up for the environmental and human health disaster and will continue to do so: The claim holds BP responsible and liable for past and future costs concerning resources and cleanup. Perfect timing for that tar mat to set an example. [Dolphins Seen Swimming in 2010 Gulf Coast Oil Spill (Video)] [more]

Tar Washing Ashore Shows Gulf Coast Not Back to Normal (Op-Ed)

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