Deepwater Horizon, also known as the BP oil spill of 2010, is one of the largest marine oil spills in the history of the petroleum industry. It damaged miles of coastline in the Gulf of Mexico, destroying marine and wildlife habitats. The spill was so historic and detrimental that a movie about it was released in September 2016.
Deepwater was just one of the many toxic spills that occur every year throughout the United States. And, despite the long term negative ramifications of releasing that much toxicity into oceans and beaches, events like this keep happening. As of August 2016, Louisiana's Plaquemines Parish had experienced three oil spills within a span of 10 days.
With this in mind, the experts at HealthGrove, a health data site powered by Graphiq, identified the counties that experience the most toxic spills. Using the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, they found the 100 counties with the most toxic spills, also known as acute toxic releases, in 2011. According to the CDC, a toxic spill -- or an acute toxic substance release incident -- can happen in a wide variety of settings and vary in its severity. This ranges from catastrophic chemical releases in industrial facilities to spills at your local dry cleaners or leaking pool chemicals in your backyard.
The list is ranked by number of toxic spills in 2011 and ties are broken in the following sequence: by the rate of injury and fatality per 100,000 people, then by the percent of acute toxic substance releases that had one injury or fatality, followed by the percent of acute toxic substance release incidents with an evacuation ordered and lastly by county name in alphabetical order.
Many coastal counties get hit the hardest by these events, as offshore oil drilling remains rife with accidents and spills. Though the Gulf of Mexico clearly houses many of these events, toxic spills happen throughout the United States, and not only in coastal regions.
For example, the Greenpoint Oil spill discovered in 1978 in Brooklyn, New York, was one of the largest and most prolonged spills in history -- it effectively wiped out the local creek's ecosystem and poisoned the Brooklyn-Queens Aquifer, a once valuable source of fresh drinking water. Additionally, in 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released a store of chemically-laced wastewater into the Animas River, turning the entire river orange, while investigating a mine near Durango, Colorado.
Though massive clean-up efforts usually follow spills like these, contaminants often remain in the soil and water long after cleaning up ends. Drilling and mining might bolster economies in the short term, but the long term environmental and health ramifications of these operations put into question whether the efforts are worth the risk.