Water Closet for February 24, 2017

[pullquote]”A Euro type confederation might be formed called the United Islands of the West Indies (UIWI). Coral reefs, turtles, bird migration flyways and fisheries would be protected by UIWI swat teams in fast catamarans, their base in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.”[/pullquote] Note: The following was written in the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in January 2011. The Middleton Stream Team hopes there will be renewed debate in congress and throughout the country on the use of fossil fuels.
LEST WE FORGET ( Reprinted from January 7, 2011)
Who remembers Ixtoc I? Certainly we remember Deepwater Horizon and Exxon Valdez even while memories of those accidents too quickly fade. In all three oil was released into the sea in massive amounts; Deepwater Horizon leaked eighteen times more crude into the Gulf of Mexico than did Exxon Valdez into Prince William Sound. In 1979 Ixtoc I, a BP well off the state of Compeche, Mexico, lost roughly three-fourths of its Deepwater Horizon record 200 million gallons. Some estimates are that 75% of BP’s oil is still out there in forms and whereabouts not fully known.

Deepwater Horizon disaster 2010. Gulf of Mexico. This was one of but thousands of oil wells off the Gulf Coast. – photo courtesy of Pixabay

We were reminded of these environmental disasters this past week (January 2011) on hearing from Pamela Beaubien, longtime friend of the Water Closet who is excited about an upcoming ecotourism trip to Costa Rica. This grandmother who has been to Pakistan and most of South Asia is as worried as a school girl about who her as yet unknown roommate will be? Her Road Scholars’ tour group and many others go to beautiful Costa Rica because much of the country’s area is wildlife preserve. There is no standing army. Upon hearing about her planned trip we got out the Closet’s atlas as we argued about whether Costa Rica is on the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea. We thought it ironic that Costa Rica, Mecca for environmentalists and naturalists around the world, might be on a body of water where two of mankind’s greatest and most careless accidents had occurred. The evening after Pamela’s email we watched Ray Suarez of PBS’s News Hour interview Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, about Deepwater Horizon, the story of the year.

Great Egret on marsh damaged by crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. – photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region via Wkipedia Commons

Before we continue, let’s review the geography of the area. Costa Rica isn’t on the Gulf of Mexico. Its eastern shore abuts the Caribbean Sea; on the west coast, over high mountains, twice that length is washed by the Pacific. Is the Gulf part of the Caribbean Sea? The Mexican name has both connecting bodies of water in El Mar Caribe. Suarez asked Lubchenco if the oil still lingering in the Gulf would eventually get flushed out into the Atlantic. She said there is a loop current coming in and going out so there is some exchange. Back to the atlas we went to look for current arrows on the maps. Sweeping west across the Atlantic from Africa come the warm surface waters of the North Equatorial Currents, which flow between the many islands of the Lesser Antilles on into the Caribbean Sea. The broad current continues west south of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic-Haiti, Jamaica and then Cuba, the longest of the Greater Antilles. The Antilles swing north then westward in a 1600 mile arc from Trinidad just off South America to the tip of Cuba which points toward the Yucatan Peninsula. Upon passing northward between the Yucatan and Cuba the current enters the Gulf of Mexico. It then turns easterly north of Cuba and south of Florida on to the Bahamas where it merges with the Gulf Stream, which flows on north to us, warming and affecting weather.
How long will residual oil remain in the Gulf? Lubchenco didn’t know but guesses “years or decades.” One big concern is the oil on the bottom of the Gulf around the capped well and beyond. One estimate has a “kill zone” there of 80-square miles of bottom thickly covered with oil, about a third the area of Essex County. In late November 2010 4200-square miles of the Gulf were closed to shrimping because of tar balls found in nets and on the surface. All these estimates are very approximate. It will be years, if ever, before all the areas affected and the long term effects are known.
We have an idealistic scheme for civilian Pamela and North and South American and UN officials visiting Costa Rica. Cultivate contacts and then urge Costa Rica to serve as environmental consultant and perhaps even cop for the Caribbean and its western extension, the Gulf of Mexico. The deal might be: we warriors will protect you from foreign bother if you with our monetary help act as park ranger to the Caribbean’s ecosystems. Think of what might be done with such aid to governments in the West Indies in amounts spent each week in Afghanistan and Iraq. With that money the islands, with Costa Rican and Cuban help, could protect the environment while promoting ecotourism. Transport for tourists would be by sail and solar powered vessels. A Euro type confederation might be formed called the United Islands of the West Indies (UIWI). Coral reefs, turtles, bird migration flyways and fisheries would be protected by UIWI swat teams in fast catamarans, their base in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The western world brutally exploited the Caribbean, Haiti perhaps the most, for five centuries. Now it is time for reparations that benefit all from booming Brazil and Venezuela in the south to our Gulf States in the north. We would all help the islands for our mutual benefit. Crazy dreams you might say, but how else are we to solve global environmental problems without bold moves? Thus far Rio, Kyoto, and Copenhagen gatherings haven’t worked. ((2017. The Paris Accord is now in danger due to possible United States withdrawal.)) The world has past examples of great accomplishments. Look what Mandela peacefully did for South Africa, Gandhi for India, Roosevelt with war on two fronts, and Truman and Acheson with the Marshall Plan after WWII. Oscar Arias, President of Costa Rica 1986 to 1990 and 2006 to 2010, won the Noble Prize in 1987 for successfully negotiating peace among neighboring countries. Humans are capable of doing big and wondrous things. It takes inspired leadership and responsible people.
We old timers can remember the hope felt by much of the world back in 1945 when the United Nations was formed. It is high time for another idealistic move outside the bag of traditional “self interest,” the mantra of state departments and foreign ministries around the world. We have long known that the interests of all are intertwined especially in the case of environmental problems that should have no national bounds. Let’s look at these arcs of islands and seas ringed by continents not as arbitrary political entities but rather as migration flyways, nursery beaches for turtles, continental shelves, deep ocean trenches, tidal flats, mangrove swamps, marshes, enriching currents, fisheries, land areas providing nourishing runoff, rookeries, coral keys and reefs, paths of hurricanes, sources of our weather, the list is endless. All these things are ours collectively; in the long run our lives depend on them. For the past half a millennium we’ve taken from them mindlessly, now we need to come together and nurture, to give back. Far out you say, we answer, yea. We want healthy birds, coral, fish, and the thousands of other organisms including us that need clean water. Let’s have an annual “Remember Ixtoc and Deepwater Horizon Day” until the dangerous oil wells are gone and cruise behemoths are replaced by smaller ships under sail and solar.
Pamela, when you and other members of your Road Scholars’ trip return please lobby for a United Islands of the West Indies (UIWI) type organization that will include the surrounding continents.


Precipitation Data* for Month of: Nov Dec Jan Feb
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 4.55 4.12 3.40 3.25
   2016 Central Watershed Actual 2.68 4.41 4.02 3.1**as of Feb 17

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Feb 17, 2017  Normal . . . 61CFS     Current Rate . . . 43 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Jan.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for Feb..
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or         <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584