State officials announced a new online source for people interested in accessing seafood testing data in the wake of last year’s BP Deepwater Horizon oil leak.
The website — gulfsource.org — is an online resource where anyone can see all of the test results that have been taken and will serve as a place to post continuing testing results, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Secretary Robert Barham said.
The website is a combined effort between Wildlife and Fisheries, state Department of Health and Hospitals, state Department of Environmental Quality and the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry, he said. The ongoing testing and the website are being funded through $18 million provided by BP for the Louisiana Seafood Safety Plan.
Seafood testing started immediately after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil leak April 2010, he said.
“For the last 18 months, we’ve been testing shrimp, finfish and oyster samples,” Barham said during a news conference Friday.
Between May 17 and July 17, the Louisiana Seafood Safety Plan tested more than 2,130 samples, according to the website.
The website shows where samples were taken, when they were taken and what was found in the analysis.
Currently, 329 samples are taken every month. This includes 143 shrimp, crab and fish, 90 oysters, 60 water samples and 36 sediment samples.
“Our Louisiana seafood is absolutely the most tested seafood in the world,” Barham said. “Over the next several years, we’ll continue our testing and we’ll upload those results (to the new website).”
Bruce Greenstein, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said the website allows the testing data to be open for public scrutiny. Of the more than 2,000 seafood samples taken so far, none of them had levels of chemicals or dispersants that were even near the level of concern, he said.
“It’s critical for health and safety for information to be released on a timely and transparent manner,” Greenstein said.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries collects all shrimp, crab, fish, near shore water and sediment samples. State Department of Environmental Quality collects inshore water and sediment samples and coordinates the collection of data and sample results.
Testing of the samples is split between DHH and the state Department of Agriculture and Forestry.
Based on levels seen so far, Barham said, people would have to eat 60 pounds of shrimp a day for the next five years before they reached a pollution level of concern as set out by federal agencies.
In addition, the state is doing a separate three-year $13 million monitoring program focused on seafood populations to make sure there isn’t a problem that develops.
“We learned a lesson from Alaska,” he said referring to the problems with fisheries that surfaced several years after the Exxon Valdez spill.
Earlier this week, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network released a report about the response to the oil leak. Part of that report questioned whether the state and federal authorities were looking for enough of the possible pollution that seafood could contain, namely different types of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH). In addition, the LEAN report said total petroleum hydrocarbons levels should also be considered.
However, state health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry said seafood samples are tested through a method that identifies if any PAHs are present. If something does show up, that sample is sent for additional analysis to determine what specific PAH is present.
“So, I don’t agree with them,” Guidry said about LEAN.
In addition, a test for total petroleum hydrocarbons, “does little to identify compounds that may be harmful to humans,” according to the new website.
The website, resource naming, logo, branding, site design, advertising banners, promotional materials and other design work was done by Trumpet out of New Orleans for $49,999, according to Olivia Watkins, special adviser to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secretary. The work also included a full custom database built by New Orleans-based Susco Solutions. Updates to the website as data becomes available will be done by DEQ and wildlife and fisheries.