THIBODAUX – Nicholls State University hosted a public conference Wednesday, April 18, titled “The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A 2012 Report Card.” Sponsored by the Environment and Health Council of Louisiana, the conference featured a keynote address delivered by Dr. Donald Boesch, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.
A New Orleans native, Boesch is a professor of marine science at the University of Maryland and president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The presidential commission on which he served beginning in June 2010 offered grades in 2011 and again in 2012, ranging from a B+ for both the Obama Administration and the state of Louisiana to a D for Congress.
At Nicholls, Boesch joined a panel of experts to discuss a broad range of topics related to the explosion and oil spill, including the mechanisms which led to the blow-out and the quantity and chemical make-up of substances released from the ruptured well. Speakers and roundtable participants included Dr. Robert Dickey, director of the Division of Seafood Science and Technology for the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition; Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals; Dr. Mike Robichaux, physician and former state senator from Raceland; Dr. Ed Overton, professor emeritus of the LSU Department of Environmental Sciences; and Dr. Marilyn Kilgen, Alice Fortier Professor of Biological Sciences at Nicholls. Guidry presented information related to the effects on public health, and Dickey addressed seafood safety concerns.
Overall the participants cited the efforts of NOAA, the FDA and other branches of the federal government to thoroughly test and certify that the waters are free of toxins and that seafood is safe to eat. All agreed that the initial fears of a catastrophic effect upon the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico and its bounty of seafood have failed to materialize. Most agreed that investigations need to be continued for several years with a greater emphasis on research in south Louisiana by the people who are likely to be most affected in the future.
For additional information, call Dr. Jim Baker, assistant professor of chemistry at Nicholls and board member of the Environment and Health Council of Louisiana, at 985-448-4576.