Albert Schweitzer once said, “Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.” If you live in the Gulf region, I would imagine you’d need a pretty bad memory to forget the BP oil rig explosion and spill, celebrating it's second anniverary today. For others, good health may be just as unlikely right now.
Like all environmental disasters, the most serious health effects take time to develop. Just look at the terrible state of affairs for Ground Zero clean up workers, who are sick and dying more than a decade after 9/11. People are still sick and dying today in Bhopal India, 27 years after a horrendous chemical explosion. They’re all like this, these catastrophes.
BP’s Gulf Coast disaster is no different. So much focus has been on the commercial losses suffered by individual and businesses. Please don’t get me wrong, these are important. In fact, we note with interest the results of a new audit of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, which found,
Thousands of people affected by the BP oil spill will receive $64 million in additional compensation after an independent audit identified “significant” errors in the claims process set up after the disaster, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The independent audit, conducted for the Justice Department by an outside consulting firm, found that the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) did not adequately compensate 7,300 individuals and businesses.
In addition, the audit found 2,600 claims that were wrongly denied, but will not receive additional payments, “because their claim files did not contain information needed to determine whether the claimants sustained a financial loss,” according to an executive summary of the audit.
Last month, the Mississippi Center for Justice, which provided pro bono legal services for claimants, said it was helping 7,000 people who were not part of the litigation and were struggling to navigate Feinberg's complex claims process. Martha Bergmark, the center president, said the process needed to be more transparent and equitable.
John Jopling, the center's managing attorney in Biloxi, thanked the Justice Department for a speedy and thorough review, but said the center "hopes it's just the first step to paying tens of thousands of claimants who haven't been paid and may still be awaiting a determination."
Yet those facing health problems are in even worse shape. So kudos to the Huffington Post, for taking on this issue and, sadly but not unexpectedly, finding some horrendous health problems surfacing - especially among children living close by. One mom, Nicole Maurer, has several terribly sick children and now, her kitchen cupboard “resembles a pharmacy” with all the medications they need. Yet until now, her family has had no recourse whatsoever:
Nicole Maurer’s claims for compensation from BP have so far been “denied, denied, denied,” she says. “Did I say ‘denied?'” Her husband, William, earns a fraction of what he used to as a commercial fisherman, making their plan to move away from the Gulf Coast all but impossible.
… William says he is “sure” he brought chemical dispersants and crude oil home every night while working on the Gulf cleanup. “I never got one piece of protective equipment or clothing,” he says, before erupting into one of his frequent coughing fits and spitting into the garbage can. A lack of protection for the cleanup crews has made its own headlines over the last two years.
I say “until now,” because attorneys working on behalf of the victims have forced BP to cough up some money to help families with chronic health problems and to institute critical medical monitoring. Kudos to them, because without litigation, BP would have had no motive to do it – especially since they still deny any liability for these claims.
Writes marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott,
For two years, BP and the state and federal governments denied the epidemic of respiratory problems, dizziness and headaches, horrific skin lesions, and blood problems was linked with the oil and chemical disaster -- despite the fact that medical literature identifies these identical symptoms as characteristic of oil spill exposure. Now under the BP-Plaintiffs' Settlement, BP has agreed to pay literally billions of dollars for medical claims, medical monitoring for twenty-one years, medical services, and community health clinics for underserved populations staffed with specialists in chemical illness treatment -- but with no admission of liability.
Of course not. What else is new?