Cash-Strapped Agency Probing BP Explosion Struggles to Find Resources for Investigation
The US Chemical Safety Board was never a flush-with-funds federal agency even before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The agency has a staff strength of just 40, and a laughably low budget of $10.6 million. Its resources were stretched thin to begin with. It was already overburdened with investigations into the ConAgra refinery explosion and the explosion of the Silver Eagle Refinery in Utah last year. Then came the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Chemical Safety Board to investigate the explosion.
The Chemical Safety Board has now announced that it is so strapped of funds and resources that it will have to shut down some of its other investigations and delay new investigations to shift its resources to the BP probe. According to John Bresland ,the then Chairman of the Chemical Safety Board, the agency is overburdened with an extraordinary caseload, and will have to take some difficult steps in order to manage the BP investigation. The board will likely have to close down some of its ongoing investigations, including the one into the ConAgra explosion that killed four people and injured 79 workers, and the Kleen Energy Plant explosion in Connecticut that killed six people. The agency simply does not have the resources to handle all these investigations at the same time.
The Chemical Safety Board is to industrial safety, what the National Transportation Safety Board is to transportation safety. It has a huge role in investigating disasters, and recommending steps that can be taken to prevent future disasters. However, the NTSB has a staff strength of close to 400 employees and a budget of $80 million, compared to the CSB’s pitifully low resources.
People in Utah, Connecticut and the other areas where investigations will now be suspended indefinitely, are already concerned. These people have been waiting for answers to their questions, and now it seems like it’ll be a long wait till the Chemical Safety Board wraps up the BP investigation.
The Deepwater Horizon explosion should draw attention to the precarious financial position at the CSB. It hasn’t helped that the refinery and petrochemicals lobby has allegedly opposed increased funding for the CSB.
The Texas maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris represent injured victims of refinery accidents and explosions in Texas and nationwide and have represented injured seamen, longshore workers, and other maritime employees worldwide for over 45 years. Don’t settle for less experience, come to SMSH with your maritime law questions and we will help you.
BP Will Provide $52 Million in Funding for Oil Spill-Related Mental Health Treatment
In the first indication that BP will take the mental stress challenges arising out of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill seriously, the company has announced that it will provide $52 million in funding to federal and state agencies for support and outreach programs in the Gulf coast states.
Propublica quotes Lamar McKay, president of BP America as saying that the company appreciates that there’s a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region, and that this has raised severe mental health challenges. These challenges need to be addressed, and therefore, the company is providing assistance for mental health assistance programs.
According to the funding breakdown,
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will receive $10 million
- Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals will receive $15 million
- Mississippi Department of Mental Health will receive $12 Million
- Alabama Department of Mental Health will receive $12 million
- Florida Department of Children and Families will receive $3 million
The announcement that the company would provide funding for mental health programs came after a study conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. According to the study, two thirds of parents living in the Gulf states reported that their children were showing signs of physical and mental stress since the oil spill. Some of the symptoms included coughing or wheezing, severe skin rashes, depression, and sleeping difficulties.
Not too surprisingly, these symptoms seem to be the most prevalent among children in low-income families, earning less than $25,000 a year. These families are under the highest threat of financial ruin from the spill, and it’s likely that parents are projecting some of that anxiety and stress on to their kids.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris represent injured oil rig workers, fishing vessel crews, cruise line crew members, barge and tug operators and other maritime workers in accidents in Texas and across the globe.
Philadelphia Duck Boat Accident Lawsuit Filed
Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., the duck boat manufacturer and parent company of Ride the Ducks of Philadelphia have been named in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed Aug. 10. The lawsuit also names Ride the Ducks of Philadelphia, LLC, K-Sea Transportation Partners, LP and the City of Philadelphia.
The suit was filed following a fatal duck-boat crash July 7 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia that killed two Hungarian student-tourists.
Dora Schwendtner and Szabolcs Prem were killed when a 290-foot barge rammed into the Philadelphia duck boat. The duck boat, which was filled with tourists, sank when it was struck.
The suits claims the duck boat failed to increase the buoyancy of the vessel per National Transportation Safety Board recommendations; operated in violation of NTSB recommendations by having a fixed canopy barring timely passenger escape in the event of a loss of buoyancy; failed to maintain basic safety equipment and failed to issue and require passengers wear floatation devices; operated outside Coast Guard-approved limit; and failed to summon emergency assistance.
It claims the tugboat failed to post a lookout and operated with a blind spot in busy shipping channel; failed to monitor proper emergency maritime channels and was deaf to the duck boat’s Mayday calls; operated with an undermanned crew and instructed crew members to invoke the Fifth Amendment, depriving NTSB investigators of accident investigation information
Texas Benzene Exposure Claims for BP Refinery Toxic Release
Five years following a 2005 plant explosion and just when things started to look up with regard to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill, BP is being sued yet again. A little-reported 40-day benzene leak has triggered a new lawsuit against BP, claiming $10 billion in damages. The benzene leak occurred at BP’s Texas City refinery and has led to two lawsuits already and created an environment of fear and confusion in the local community surrounding the BP refinery.
At least one lawyer believes that the benzene exposure lawsuits could obscure the deepwater drilling oil spill claims because many more people were injured by the BP Texas City refinery benzene leaks. The benzene suit involves 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals that leaked from BP’s Texas City refinery. Thousands of local Texas City residents who were exposed to BP’s benzene emissions have joined in the class action lawsuit so far.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigated the leak and called it an “excessive emissions event.” The agency concluded it was probably caused by poor maintenance. The Texas Attorney General’s Office is considering possible fines against BP. However, BP does not believe there is any basis to pay claims in connection with this event. BP is not taking or paying such claims.
The Texas City benzene leak has already produced more personal injury claims than BP’s Deepwater Horizon litigation. The oil spill hasn’t killed anyone since the initial offshore oil rig explosion sadly took the lives of 11 crewmembers.
Benzene is toxic and a known carcinogen, and may be blamed for the health problems of thousands now and well into the future. If you live in the Texas City area and were exposed to benzene during BP’s April and May toxic release, please contact SMSH today for my information about your claims at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coast Guard Investigates Vessel Collision Causing Louisiana Oil Spill
At around 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the dredge barge Captain Buford Berrywhich was being pushed by the tug vessel Pere Ana C allided with a wellheadin the Barataria Waterway while en route to Berwick Bay. The well spewed a 100-foot plume of oil up into the air. The wellhead which was struck is classified as “orphaned” and the last known owner was CYDECO Corporation of Houston, Texas which is now defunct. The ruptured wellhead is said to be producing a mixture of oil, natural gas and water into Barataria Bay. An administrative order was issued to CYDECO to stop the well from discharging.
Marine traffic has been restricted by a two-foot safety zone around the wellhead to prevent possible ignition of the discharged chemicals.
While the leak is not classified as large, the exact amount of oil and gas being spilled into the water is unknown. This is yet another blow to Jefferson Parish as they were just able to get this area cleaned up from the BP Oil Spill a week ago. Efforts are underway to cap the Louisiana oil leak.
Brain Biomarker Test Will Quicken Diagnosis of Injuries in Workers, Accident Victims
At a lab owned by Banyan Biomarkers Inc. in Florida, anesthetized rats are repeatedly hit with tiny metal pistons and blasts of air in order to imitate the impact of a serious head injury. The idea is to determine whether brain injury in these animals leads to the development of biomarkers in the blood. The aim is to develop a test that will allow health care professionals to test for a brain injury, by determining the presence of a biomarker in the blood.
As maritime attorneys and Houston industrial accident attorneys, we often come across maritime workers and other workers with a brain injury. These can occur when workers are struck on the head in the workplace, by flying objects or falling materials or debris. A person can suffer a brain injury when he falls off a deck, a ladder or platform. Just about every workplace in Texas has potential fall hazards, and even falls that have a moderate impact, can cause a concussion or mild brain injury. That is why it was so great to hear that the US Department Of Defense is investing in a study in the development of a brain injury test device that determines the presence of biomarkers. The study is the first of its kind in the country, and will soon be conducted on 1,000 patients across 20 hospitals.
Currently, there’s not much that doctors have to work with while diagnosing a brain injury, except for the victim’s symptoms if he’s conscious, or the accounts of witnesses. Sometimes, these accounts can be conflicting, and very often, doctors fail to diagnose a brain injury.
The chances of misdiagnosing an injury are even higher when the person has not lost consciousness after an injury. That often happens during fall accidents. With a test that can help determine the presence of biomarkers in the person’s blood, doctors will be able to diagnose a brain injury much quicker. This will also allow them to begin treatment as quickly as possible. Early treatment is key to a brain injury patient’s recovery. There is not much you can do to reverse the initial damage, but if doctors can begin working on a patient as quickly as possible, they can limit the extent of the brain injury.
Two Persons Missing in Barge-Tourist Boat Accident in Philadelphia
Two persons continue to remain missing a day after a massive accident involving a amphibious tourist boat and a barge on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The two missing are a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl from Hungary. Search and rescue operations for the two missing persons were suspended for a while yesterday, but are expected to resume on Thursday.
The barge accident occurred on Wednesday afternoon. The sequence of events began when a small fire broke out in the engine room of the tourist boat, which had 37 passengers on board. The boat was stalled in the water waiting for help, when it was struck by a city-owned barge that was being pulled by a tugboat. The impact of the crash caused the tourist boat to sink almost immediately. The passengers were all thrown overboard, and most of them were saved. However, the two Hungarian tourists continue to remain missing. Ten people on the tourist boat had to be treated in the hospital for their injuries. The barge was a massive 800-foot long vessel, and was being pulled by an 85-foot tug.
Investigations are expected to begin immediately. The National Transportation Safety Board has already sent a four-member team to the accident site. Investigators are currently focusing on whether the tourist boat had made any attempt to alert other vessels in the area about the situation. According to the Coast Guard, it has information that the boat sent out a transmission hailing another boat, but no evidence of a call for help from the tourist boat.
The investigation is also focusing on how visible the tourist boat was, as it was partially submerged below the water. For now, investigators don’t believe that the speed of the barge was a major issue in this maritime accident.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris represent injured victims of maritime accidents in Texas, across the country and worldwide. SMSH Maritime Partner Matthew Shaffer has spoken out in the media about the Delaware River duck boat accident and tourist vessel safety.
BP Texas Refinery Had Toxic Release Just Before Deepwater Horizon Gulf Blowout
Two weeks before the blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, BP’s huge Texas City, Texas refinery is said to have spewed tens of thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals into the air. The toxic chemical release from the BP facility allegedly began April 6 and lasted 40 days.
This toxic chemical release stemmed from BP’s unsafe decision to keep producing and selling gasoline while repairing equipment. Does this story sound familiar from the Deepwater Horizon blowout preventor?
BP failed to detect the gravity of its emissions for weeks, and now believes approximately 538,000 pounds of chemicals escaped from its Texas refinery while it was replacing the equipment. These included 17,000 pounds of benzene, a known carcinogen, among other harmful and toxic chemicals.
The Texas City BP refinery has continually been a problem-causer. It was the site of a huge 2005 explosion which killed 15 workers. Our firm’s explosion lawyers represented multiple clients in that litigation so we know BP and their poor safety record well. Since that explosion, four more workers have died at this refinery. Additionally, just last year, OSHA fined BP $87 million for failing to address the safety problems that caused the 2005 blast. Also last year, the Texas Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit against BP for “poor operating and maintenance practices’’ that caused an “egregious amount of emissions.” That case cited 53 separate incidents that, taken together, are roughly equal to the 538,000 pounds BP calculates it released over the 40 days this year.
In the weeks since the Deepwater Horizon exploded, BP has repearedly cried out that the oil rig explosion was an unusual misstep for them. We don’t buy it.
The 40-day toxic chemical release errily foreshadowed the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP officials underestimated the problem and took steps in the days leading up to the incident to reduce costs and keep their operations online. Our Texas Injury Lawyers say that this is enough.
It’s official. Oil from the BP oil spill has reached the Texas coastline. Gallons of tar balls were found on the Bolivar Peninsula and a Galveston beach over the Fourth of July holiday. The tar balls were found by local residents who notified the US Coast Guard and the Texas Gen. Land Office immediately. Tests have now confirmed that the tar balls indeed originated from the BP oil spill site in the Gulf Mexico.
As soon as the tar balls were discovered, crew members began to use rakes and shovels to remove the tar balls. A total of 5 gallons of tar balls were recovered. The largest ball was about the size of a ping-pong ball.
Authorities are still trying to determine how the oil reached the Texas coastline. The consistency of the tarballs doesn’t seem to indicate that these have traveled 400 miles from the site of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which led to the well spewing oil. They’re looking at the possibility that the oil came from the side of a ship or vessel that passed through the spill. As of now, no one believes that the tar balls reached the beaches through currents. More tests will be conducted on the tar balls to determine how they landed here.
There’s no evidence of more unwelcome oil washing up on Texas beaches, but the Coast Guard is keeping its eyes open. The agency has set up a command post for oil spill operations in Texas City. In case more oil shows up on our beaches, then this post will likely be in charge of oil spill cleanup efforts here.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer and Harris represent injured victims of maritime accidents in Texas, across the country and worldwide.
One Person Killed in New York Harbor Boating Accident
Boating under the influence is being blamed for a fatal boating accident in the New York harbor over the weekend. On Friday evening, one man was killed and two other persons on his boat were seriously injured when another boat, allegedly being operated by an intoxicated boater, crashed into the pleasure craft in the New York harbor.
The three men were on a 19 foot Bayliner, and were near the Statue of Liberty when their craft was struck by a Pro-Line vessel. The impact of the crash was massive, and it broke the Bayliner into two. One of the three men aboard was trapped in the wreckage. Rescuers were able to extricate him from the mangled wreck, and he was rushed to the hospital. However, he died of his injuries. The two other men suffered minor injuries including cuts and scrapes.
The operator of the larger boat failed a sobriety test, and was arrested. The other people on the boat with him included a woman and three children. Fortunately, none of them were injured in the accident.
Boating under the influence continues to be a major factor in boating accidents in Texas. It is dangerous for you to be driving under the influence on land. It’s even more dangerous on the water, because your intoxicated boating is worsened by the fact that you have less experience boating than driving. The average American has been a motorist for more numbers of years than he has been a boater. This relative lack of experience on the water means that an intoxicated boater will find it much harder to make emergency decisions that can prevent an accident.
Boating under the influence is a special concern during summer when so many Texans are out on the water for fun. Unfortunately for many of these people, fun involves mixing alcohol with boating which is never a good idea.
The maritime lawyers at Schechter McElwee Shaffer & Harris represent injured victims of maritime accidents in Texas, across the country and worldwide.