Today a shout out to Edith Widder, marine scientist and founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, for her work on BP's Gulf catastrophe. According to the Palm Beach Post, Edith is taking matters into her own capable hands. She is conducting independent research on the oil disaster while providing sobering insight into BP's involvement in the response effort.
From the story, here are two good quotes, one very informative and one hopeful:
"And she doesn’t want BP involved because after working as a consultant at an Alabama command post dealing with the oil spill, she has little confidence in the company’s leadership and sense of urgency when it comes to damage assessment.
'We cannot sit around and wait for BP to do the right thing,' said Widder, who created the conservation association ORCA in 2005 after 16 years at Harbor Branch. 'All of those oil command centers are completely under BP control and that’s the fox watching the henhouse.'"
And a simple and simply hopeful quote:
“We shouldn’t assume we can’t do anything,” Widder said.
Nice work and thank you Edith!
The full story by staff writer Kimberly Miller is here:
BP lacks sense of urgency, scientist says, taking testing into her own hands
Frustrated by BP’s control of the purse strings, and therefore the scientific efforts to monitor the largest oil spill in U.S. history, one South Florida researcher has launched her own effort to guard the state’s eastern shores.
Deep sea explorer Edith Widder, a former senior scientist at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce and founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, began collecting sediment samples this week at inlets from Miami to Sebastian, including those in Palm Beach County.
She wants baseline data so that if the oil seeps through the Florida Straits and into the coast-hugging Gulf Stream there will be comparisons to gauge short-term effects and long-term damage. Widder also hopes to place real-time sensors developed by her organization into the Atlantic Ocean to detect when the oil is coming and in what form.
And she doesn’t want BP involved because after working as a consultant at an Alabama command post dealing with the oil spill, she has little confidence in the company’s leadership and sense of urgency when it comes to damage assessment.
“We cannot sit around and wait for BP to do the right thing,” said Widder, who created the conservation association ORCA in 2005 after 16 years at Harbor Branch. “All of those oil command centers are completely under BP control and that’s the fox watching the henhouse.”
Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion April 20 that caused the gusher now believed to be releasing as much as 2.5 million gallons of oil each day, BP has faced criticism for being stubborn to acknowledge the worst of the spill.
For weeks, BP executives have doubted discoveries by University of South Florida researchers who identified a huge underwater plume of oil that scientists worry could cause as much or more devastation as the surface oil slick.
In the May 27 edition of the journal Nature, scientists complained of a lack of baseline data gathering in the gulf, information that it is probably too late to collect. They also had concerns about not knowing what kind of studies already were under way.
Widder’s group has experienced the same thing. BP already approved plans to collect sediment and water samples in southeast Florida waters, data that was taken last week, said Florida Emergency Operations Center spokeswoman Amy Graham.
“The general consensus is there doesn’t seem to be any sharing of information,” said Warren Falls, ORCA’s managing director, who had spoken to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection but said he didn’t know about the sampling.
Two other plans for sampling the waters off Martin County north to the Georgia state line await BP and Unified Command approval.
“The fact that it has to be approved by BP makes no sense. It’s scary,” said Widder, who acted as an oil consultant for the Department of Interior. “I wish I could report a strong, well-organized, science-driven oil spill response plan. Unfortunately, that is not the case.”
It may have improved this week with BP’s announcement of millions of dollars in grant money to scientists, including the University of South Florida-based Florida Institute of Oceanography.
The institute will receive $10 million of an expected $500 million that BP pledged during the next 10 years. ORCA is not a member of the institute.
Vickie Chachere, news manager for USF communications and marketing, said the institute was promised that BP will not interfere with the research and that all data will be made public.
“There are no strings attached,” said William Hogarth, acting director of the institute.
Still, Widder said she has to act. She’s collecting private donations to place about 10 solar-powered water-quality monitors along the east coast. Each monitor, called a Kilroy, can take readings every half hour.
Widder wants to raise up to $200,000 to set up the monitoring system, something she wants to be totally separate from BP.
“We shouldn’t assume we can’t do anything,” Widder said. “But doing something means having the knowledge of what we are fighting.”
For more information go to www.teamorca.org.