I want to thank Mannie Barling and Ashley Brooks for their great help in writing this article.

It was sometime in the early 1980’s that I first heard the term Acid Rain. Interestingly enough the article was talking about a part of North America which few people would consider as a likely target. The great flatlands found in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba seemed far removed from any industrial sources that might produce the phenomena. One online definition says:

“rain containing acids that form in the atmosphere when industrial gas emissions (especially sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) combine with water”

Analysis showed that Canada’s acid rain did not come from a local source, rather it was being carried by the prevailing winds from deep within (the then) USSR. Chemicals being spewed into the atmosphere were riding the winds for many hundreds of miles.

I am not a biologist or a chemist, so excuse my simple explanation of the deadly embrace that it creates. The unwanted ‘guests’ in the rain contaminate the soil that our crops grow in. This ‘weakens’ the soil, and that in turn ‘weakens’ the crops.  The solution is two-fold, farmers spray yet more chemicals on the land, some to promote growth (fertilizers), and some to retard growth (pesticides). Sadly, the most common chemical used is nitrous oxide, another chemical that damages the environment.

Of course you have to also add into the mix, the use of “Roundup-Ready” generally modified seeds.  Yes, that is the same Roundup advertised on TV to keep your lawn weed free.

OK, you are bored with the science lesson and asking what on earth this has to do with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster? Actually, it has a lot to do with it.

From Mannie and Ashley:

What happened with the Deepwater Horizon Well explosion is that the mixture of hydrogen, nitrogen and sulphuric acid from the blast were sent hundreds of miles into the atmosphere. The result is acid rain that could stretch as far as mid-Texas, Arkansas and all of Mississippi.

As is usually the case in the Gulf region during the summer months, the wind blows in from the Gulf, it is heavy with water vapor and drops as rain quickly. This acid rain is not traveling far!

Again from Mannie and Ashley:

The explosion and burning of oil and chemicals dispersants converted the chromium in the crude oil to a water soluble mixture that was then evaporated and converted into acid rain.

When you pour more than a million gallons of toxic chemical dispersants on top of an oil spill, it doesn’t just disappear. It evaporates into the atmosphere where it will travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles from the site in the form of toxic rain.

I have to admit that even though I am not a scientist, I was less than happy with some of the techniques used to get rid of the oil. Corralling it and burning it off did not seem a very well thought out method of disposal. Certainly the government and BP knew that burning the oil would turn into gaseous form that evaporates into acid rain much quicker than normal ocean evaporation.

I don’t want to make light of it, but it was akin to deciding that the land fill was full, and disposing of the problem with an atomic bomb! As in “honey it was a busy day at work, the land fill was full, but we detonated an atomic bomb, now we have a nuclear mushroom cloud over our home.”

Just as disturbing is BP’s other choice, the use of a dispersant.

BP selected Corexit 9500 as a dispersant which was banned in Europe. Corexit 9500 is one of the longest surviving toxic chemical dispersants ever created to battle an oil spill. Worse yet, it only dispersed one-half of the oil it reached. Add to that the millions of gallons of oil that have been burned, releasing even more toxins into the atmosphere, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Sulphur is a common by-product of any explosion so it is safe to assume that the explosion and later burning of crude oil sent tons of sulphur into the atmosphere. Since no one truly knows what was in the formula of the dispersants, it is clear that there may have been higher levels of chromium and sulphur than anyone thought – if they thought about this at all.

I am certain that BP will say that this did not happen and there is no explanation for the chromic acid or chromium in the water. They have and will argue that it came from a different source.

I don’t think this final comment even needs introduction.

Since it was rain water tested – not surface or table water– then industrial run-off, pollution and seepage from treated timber are not rational explanations. But this acid rain will increase the acidity of water run-off.

You can find more information about Mannie Barling and Ashley Brooks from their web site.

I also recommend that you read and listen to our recent radio program on the subject.

Simon Barrett

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