Environment

Justice Makes Arrest in BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Apr 24, 2012
Photo courtesy csb.gov

NEW ORLEANS —The Justice Department said on Tuesday it filed the first criminal charges in the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, accusing a former BP engineer of destroying evidence.

Kurt Mix, of Katy, Texas, was arrested on two counts of obstruction of justice.

The Justice Department says the 50-year-old Mix is accused of deleting a string of 200 text messages with a BP supervisor in October 2010 that involved internal BP information about how efforts to cap the well were failing.

BP officials did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Steve Newborn

Wildlife photographer Carlton Ward Jr., filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus, bear biologist Joe Guthrie and conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt have wrapped up the traveling part of their Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition. They crossed the finish line Sunday, nearly 100 days after setting off in the Everglades on a 1,000-mile journey to the Georgia state line. Their goal is to inspire the creation of a permanent unbroken wildlife corridor. WUSF's Steve Newborn kept track of the expedition - and joined in on occasion - and was there when they crossed the finish line.

It's been 1,000 miles in nearly 100 days. They started at the tip of the Everglades, and Sunday, members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition reached the finish line - Georgia. Their goal is to connect the state's WUSF's Steve Newborn has been following the group, and reports on their mission - and whether it has a chance of succeeding.

Expedition member Carlton Ward Junior remembers slogging for days through the heart of the Everglades on kayak...

BP on the Gulf Oil Spill 2nd Anniversary

Apr 20, 2012

BP spokesman Craig Savage was quoted in the Tampa Bay Times in the days before the two year anniversary of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico as saying "the beaches are open, the tourists are back and commercial fishing is rebounding."

Does that mean BP thinks the Gulf has recovered from one of the worst environmental disasters ever?

The Gulf Oil Spill -- Shrouded in Oil and Secrecy

Apr 19, 2012

The senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation, Dr. Doug Inkley, says what surprised him the most in the wake of the huge spill in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago was the secrecy.

We've seen the possible health hazards from the dispersant used to keep oil from the damaged Deepwater Horizon well from fouling Gulf beaches.

Now, a University of South Florida engineering professor and a team of researchers think they might have a solution. They found that mucilage from the common and easily grown prickly pear cactus – already known to clean toxic compounds from drinking water – also works as a natural, non-toxic dispersant for oil spills.

On some Florida Panhandle beaches, swimmers can come off the beach with oil from the BP oil spill still on their skin -- two years after that environmental disaster. 

And, even after showering, the oil can still be on their skin. Only an ultraviolent light can show it.

A Hidden Jewel: USF’s Botanical Gardens

Apr 18, 2012

Tucked away on the edge of Tampa's USF campus is a little-known oasis: the USF Botanical Gardens. The gardens, founded in 1969, provide students and visitors with a unique look into Florida's natural beauty.

On April 14th, the gardens held its 23rd annual Spring Plant Festival. That’s when growers and botanical aficionados are invited to showcase their crops and flora for a two-day event.

The gardens’ program coordinator, Kim Hutton, says this festival is unique.

That stinging feeling that sometimes accompanies trips to the beach during outbreaks of red tide can be especially harmful to people with asthma. Now, researchers are trying to find out why some asthmatics are affected by red tide.

Anyone who ventures to the Gulf shore during red tide season knows the symptoms: irritated eyes and noses, a dry cough - even wheezing. For people with asthma, it's even worse.

It may look like the it's gone -- but oil from the BP spill may be mixing with dispersants and being absorbed into your body.

That's the disturbing revelation from a USF researcher in a story by Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times.

Photos show that under a blue light, oily spots remain on the skin after bathing on panhandle beaches -- even after a shower.

From the Times story:

Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Part of the 1,000-mile trail the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is blazing through Florida passes through what may seem an unlikely place: the main training base for the Florida National Guard. WUSF's Steve Newborn reports on how the armed forces are armed with another mission: helping protect the state's wildlife.

Air Quality in Tampa Improving from Wildfire Smoke

Apr 12, 2012

If you've been outside today, you probably have smelled the smoke coming from forest wildfires close to the Georgia border.

County officials say there's a moderate level of air pollution today- not enough to issue a warning. We should be getting some fresher air soon.

The smoke is coming from a wildfire burning 13,000 acres close to the border of Georgia. It's far away but we're getting some of the smoke here thanks to the northeast wind.

Julie Marquez from Bay News 9 tells us the conditions are already looking better for most of Tampa Bay.

New Home Construction up In Tampa Bay

Apr 11, 2012

New housing starts are way up in the Tampa Bay Area.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, new housing starts went up 26.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2012. The data comes from "Metrostudy," a national company that keeps numbers on the construction industry.

One thousand 40 new homes were started between January and March this year. Last year during that time only 840 new homes were started.

Steve Newborn

One-thousand miles-- that's how far the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition is kayaking, cycling and walking.  This week, they're crossing the Ocala National Forest. I recently hiked just nine of those miles, and walked away several blisters and a new appreciation for what they're doing.

It's dawn at Hopkins Prairie, a primitive campground deep in the Ocala forest. I unzip my tent and head through the morning fog to see what Rick Smith is up to.

Climate Change: Ready or Not

Apr 5, 2012

The Natural Resources Defense Council thinks states like Florida should start preparing for problems caused by climate change -- rising coastal waters and interior droughts -- even if they don't believe climate change is real.

Ben Chou* -- the author of a new state-by-state analysis of climate change readiness -- tells WUSF that even non-believers can get behind the idea of better safe than sorry.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and in the long run the costs of not preparing for climate change far outweigh the costs of planning now," he said.

Colorado State University

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University, lead by William Gray and Philip Klotzbach, predict below-average activity in the Atlantic basin during the upcoming hurricane season.

The prediction is based on two factors: a cooling of tropical Atlantic waters in recent months, and a return of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean.  

Hurricane season begins June 1st.

As they thread their way north, members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition have come across one of their biggest barriers - Interstate 4.  And if humans have a hard time crossing the busy highway  --  what does that mean for wildlife?
 
Expedition members have paddled through the heart of the Everglades without seeing anyone else for days.

They've high-stepped through snake-and-alligator-infested swamps.

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made Kings Bay in Crystal River a manatee refuge. As part of that, it enacted new rules about boating. And city officials haven't been too happy about it- they have until their next meeting, April 9th to vote whether or not to sue to reverse the rules.

City officials are upset  the new rules require slower boat speeds during the summer- peak season for recreation activities on the bay.

Crystal River Mayor Jim Farley says the bay is already manatee-friendly.

The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition started their trek in January at the tip of the Everglades, and they plan to end it next month at the Okeefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

Steve Newborn

OSCEOLA COUNTY - You'd think that wading through some of the most impenetrable swamps in Florida and traveling a thousand miles from the Everglades to Georgia would be tough enough. But sometimes the worst thing members of the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition have to deal with is the weather.

It's the night before the expedition has travel 17 miles, hiking and then kayaking across Lake Kissimmee. But a front that spawned tornadoes in the Midwest is expected to arrive by the morning.

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