In the wake of one of the worst oil spills since the Exxon-Valdez disaster, a massive inquiry into the underlying cause of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy has begun. Many people are wondering if this was a case of poor engineering, corporate greed, negligence, or even simple operator failure. Regardless of the cause, the crude oil is beginning to reach the United States coastline, and a guaranteed fix for the leak is nowhere in sight. In today's technologically advanced world, when a disaster like this occurs it is the responsibility of those involved to do what is ethically right, and to immediately take action with all available resources without "pointing fingers".
The Yale University sociologist Charles Perrow believes that some accidents are "normal accidents - accidents which are built into the system." He argues that modern technologies are so complex, that they "can never be made accident free, because safety devices and other components interact in ways too varied for designers and operators to predict" (Miller, 1999). Perrow concludes that by making technology safer, we are inherently more comfortable with it, and ignore the unpredictable failures that are built into the system. This leads to the belief that certain disasters, like the Deepwater Horizon incident, cannot happen, leaving us unprepared for safety system failures.
As a global company, British Petroleum is responsible for any and all consequences of their presence in the gulf waters. While it is still too early to determine the cause of the failure, one can only wonder why the rig is still leaking at an estimated rate of 5,000 barrels per day, when BP promised that they could handle a 250,000 barrel per day spill in order to be allowed to drill in this location. With an enormous 98% disparity between these two values, BP's President, Lamar McKay, could only respond that "Each spill is different," and that "This one was complicated" (Snow, 2010, pp. 19, 20). While it is feasible that some unforeseen circumstances may be to blame, which is consistent with Perrow's theories, the clean-up effort has not prevented the oil spill from reaching land. When the contract was granted to BP, they accepted responsibility for the cleanup of a spill fifty times larger than the one currently plaguing the Gulf of Mexico, yet they still have not shown any firm, pre-meditated plans for the cleanup of the coastal waters. So when Mr. McKay testified that the Transocean blowout preventer "failed to stop the leak", one must wonder how this is in any way significant to the situation at hand (Clayton, 2010, p. 1 par. 3). Rather than shifting the blame to a contractor in charge of the oil rig, it is BP's responsibility to fix the mess now.
The environmental impact of an oil spill can last for decades. In 1969, an oil tanker ran aground in Buzzard's Bay Massachusetts, spilling 175,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the marine ecosystem. According to Dr. Judy McDowell and Christopher...