BELLE CHASSE, La. (CN) - Oystermen say in a class action that BP, the oil-spill defendants and Louisiana destroyed their oyster beds by diverting fresh water into the marshes during the oil spill, in an attempt to keep oil and other pollutants out.
"Since the oil spill began, unprecedented amounts of raw crude oil, natural gas, and other toxic pollutants have encroached on and contaminated the Gulf of Mexico and the ecologically sensitive shorelines, beaches, shores, marshes, harbors, estuaries, bayous, and bays," the class says in its complaint in Plaquemines Parish Court.
"In order to combat the spreading oil, millions of gallons of chemical dispersants were sprayed over the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal zones. ... (T)he environmental effects of using the chemical dispersants in great magnitude and at depths was never tested, nor were all the dangers known. ...
"By May 13, 2010, the State of Louisiana began a diversion strategy which consisted of diverting fresh water from the Mississippi River into nearby marshes and bays, i.e. the coastal zones, to stem the encroaching oil, natural gas, and chemical dispersants' attack on Louisiana's shoreline. That month, the State of Louisiana ordered that the Bonnet Carre Spillway be opened and allow the flow of fresh water into Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne to combat oil, dispersants, and other pollutants that were being reported in Chandeleur Sound.
"The State of Louisiana also ordered the diversion canal gates opened at the Davis Pond Diversion in St. Charles Parish; the Caernarvon Diversion and Violet Siphon in St. Bernard Parish; and the Bayou Lamoque Diversion, West Port a la Hache Diversion, Naomi Siphon and Whites Ditch Siphon in Plaquemines Parish.
"The Caernarvon and Davis Pond diversions alone released more than 34,550 cubic feet of fresh water per second into the coastal bays and estuaries where hundreds of public oyster reefs and private oyster leases are located.
"The State of Louisiana's strategy to combat the amount of oil, dispersants, and other pollutants that entered the coastal zones where oysters grow resulted in the influx of freshwater which killed and/or damaged thousands of acres of private and public oyster beds because water salinity levels plummeted to levels that oysters cannot survive.
"In essence, the oysters were under attack from both sides with the oil, dispersants, and other pollutants coming from one side, and fresh water coming from the other.
"Recent tests in Barataria Bay and Breton Sound have found that roughly 40% - 70% of the oysters had died as a result of either oil, dispersants, or other contaminates and/or the diversion of fresh water.
"The damage caused to the oysters by the oil, natural gas, chemical dispersants, and fresh water has not ceased.
"According to environmental experts, the use of these chemical dispersants have only exacerbated the environmental effects of the oil spill by simply spreading the oil through the water column and sinking it to the sea floor, where it can continue to cause environmental damage to the coastal wetlands, estuaries, and marine ecosystems for years to come.
"Recent reports have indicated oil and chemical dispersants have continued to form into massive underwater plumes that will continue to threaten the Louisiana coastline, further damaging the coastal zones of Louisiana and destroying the habitats where fish, shellfish and crustaceans breed, spawn and mature."
The oysterers seek class damages, with interest, for negligence.
They are represented by Frank D'Amico Jr. of New Orleans.