On April 20, 2010, a blowout at the Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico sank the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, operated by BP. Eleven people died. And the wellhead, protruding from the seafloor, spewed millions of gallons of crude into the ocean. That oil spread far and wide, killing microorganisms and larger animals, marring coastlines and damaging the economies of communities along the shore. Debate arose over whether the large volume of chemicals dispersed to break down the oil was doing its own harm or good.
Some effects from the spill continue to linger. Just last week the National Wildlife Federation released a report indicating that in 2014 many more dead dolphins than usual were still being found along the Louisiana coast. Another sign that things aren’t back to normal is the decline in ridley sea turtle nests.
After the spill BP responded with thousands of cleanup people, thousands of boats and thousands of kilometers of oil-containment booms. Yet a federal judge is only now preparing to rule whether BP and other companies involved with the Gulf operation violated the Clean Water Act. Amidst the wait, people who live, work and play along the Gulf have tried to recover and move on: About 160 kilometers of oyster reefs are being built along the Alabama coast to protect the adjacent habitat and improve water quality. Florida is restoring dunes and planting sea grass. Government, corporate and community groups are diligently pursuing other projects, dubbed “random acts of restoration” by participants at a recent summit.
On this fifth anniversary of the accident, Scientific American is inviting readers to document the successes and failures of recovery. Send us your photos and videos of animals, shorelines or communities that are indeed coming back—as well as those that are not. And tell us how the spill continues to affect your lives and livelihoods. We will post your contributions as part of the anniversary coverage.