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​Lawsuit alleges BP, Chevron dumped radioactive waste into Louisiana waters

Published time: December 21, 2013 01:57
Edited time: December 22, 2013 22:46
A National Guard Blackhawk helicopter flies over the oil slickas it passes through the protective barrier formed by the Chandeleur Islands, as cleanup operations continue for the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster off Louisiana, on May 7, 2010. (AFP Photo / Mark Ralston)

A National Guard Blackhawk helicopter flies over the oil slickas it passes through the protective barrier formed by the Chandeleur Islands, as cleanup operations continue for the BP Deepwater Horizon platform disaster off Louisiana, on May 7, 2010. (AFP Photo / Mark Ralston)

Oil behemoths BP and Chevron dumped toxic waste - including some radioactive material - from their drilling operations into coastal waters, claims Louisiana parish Plaquemines in a lawsuit removed to federal court Thursday.

Plaquemines Parish alleges the companies released oil field waste into ocean water “without limitation,” violating the Louisiana State and Local Coastal Resources Management Act of 1978. The law requires companies to clear, revegetate, detoxify or restore polluted areas, which the companies did not do, the lawsuit claims.

The pollution, along with the companies’ lack of adequate maintenance of their oilfields, has resulted in serious coastal erosion and contaminated groundwater, according to the lawsuit.

“I think the oil companies have an obligation to self-report, I think the oil companies are to blame and I think the oil companies took advantage of the state,” John Carmouche, a lead attorney for Plaquemines, told The Advocate in November when the suit first came out in state court.

Plaquemines and the Jefferson Parish filed nearly 30 lawsuits in November aimed at dozens of energy companies and their contractors based on claims of destruction and pollution of coastal space.

The suit against BP and Chevron alleges the companies should have recognized that the drilling waste, or “brine,” contained “unacceptable and inherently dangerous” amounts of the radioactive materials Radium 226 and Radium 228.

Though minor amounts of Radium 226 were once used in health items like toothpaste, they were eventually discarded in everyday uses when it was discovered the perceived health benefits were not at all true, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Exposure to radium over a long-term period increases one’s chances of developing diseases such as lymphoma, bone cancer, leukemia and aplastic anemia, the Environmental Protection Agency reports.

Containing gamma radiation, radium is harmful if ingested or inhaled. The Environmental Protection Agency says about 20 percent of ingested radium does not leave the body, entering the bloodstream and often accumulating in bones.

The lawsuit also calls attention to the company’s construction of “unlined earthen waste pits,” described in the lawsuit as “simply holes, ponds or excavations” dug into the ground or a marsh. Many pits were never sealed correctly, nor did the companies even attempt to acquire permits to close them, the suit says.

Plaquemines also alleges BP has illegally, without permits, dredged canals throughout the area for oil and gas development.

“These suits are more of the same,” Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Don Briggs told The Advocate in November. “Extort as much money from the oil and gas industry as possible, thus lining the pockets of a small group of trial lawyers.”

In November, Harper’s magazine published a comprehensive report on the dirty legacy of oil development in the state and how industry has an unrelenting grip on Louisiana politicians.

Briggs played a part in the article, lamenting environmental and health initiatives used to halt domestic fracking or oil and gas production in Louisiana.

In an interview with Briggs, author Ken Silverstein wrote that the lobbyist criticized what he saw as a “shameless scramble by residents along the Gulf of Mexico to get a piece of the $20 billion compensation fund created following the Deepwater Horizon spill. ‘BP is getting raped and pillaged by anyone who had any sort of business on the Gulf Coast,’ he said with a snort.”

BP is currently embroiled in a legal dispute against what it says are meritless claims filed by businesses impacted by the 2010 oil spill, part of a multi-billion dollar compensation scheme.

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