GAP has been conducting an investigation into the cover up of medical problems associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since last fall. We are working with over 25 whistleblowers involving public health and safety threats that sharply contrast with BP and government denials and reassurances.
On March 2, GAP and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), our partner in the Gulf, sent a joint letter to the BP America Ombudsman Program, seeking an explanation for a resource manual (provided to GAP by an anonymous source) that details health risks for Deepwater Horizon spill cleanup workers from both the five million gallons of oil, and the two million gallons of toxic dispersant.
The letter asked the BP Ombudsman to help resolve an apparent, complete contradiction between BP’s safety reassurances to and restrictions on its employees, compared to the conclusions, warnings and mandatory precautions required by its own internal manual. A confidential whistleblower informed GAP that the safety manuals were pulled from worksites early in the cleanup, as workers began to develop listed health symptoms.
A media release by GAP and LEAN warned,
The associated symptoms listed in the BP manual mirror the health problems experienced by cleanup workers from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, but legal settlements have obliged the courts to seal those health records, so neither the public nor the BP cleanup workers can access them.
On the evening of March 2, BP and the Plaintiff’s attorneys announced a settlement that will include medical claims by cleanup workers and residents. The New Orleans Times-Picayune and Associated Press and ran two articles on the weekend of the settlement that provide helpful overviews of the medical component of the settlement negotiations, which is not finalized.
The inclusion of medical claims in the settlement is a very significant precedent, as
a) BP had been unwilling to process health claims through the $20 billion Gulf Coast Claims Facility, and
b) medical claims were not a part of public discussion during the Exxon Valdez case.
Our letter to the BP ombudsman stated “Because the apparent contradictions concern matters of the highest public significance, we are publicly posting the manual, this query and any response you provide”
All correspondence, including the BP Ombudsman’s latest response to our inquiry, can be viewed here. We will continue to update the page as new information is made available.
LEAN has been actively monitoring BP’s cleanup efforts and health problems since the spill. They have created a library of video testimonials by impacted workers and residents that can be found here.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Campaign Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.