BP blamed in 8,000 spill reports, federal data shows


British Petroleum and its subsidiaries have been the subject of roughly 8,000 reported incidents of spills, emissions and leaks of oil, chemicals and gases into the environment, according to a government database. (download them here).

The National Response Center, which takes reports on oil spills, radiation leaks, chemical emissions and other environmental accidents, shows dozens of reports stemming from the April 20 explosion at British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon. In addition to the crude oil flowing into the gulf , benzene, ethylbenzene, caustic soda solution and six other chemicals have been released into the water and air, according to incident reports submitted to the National Response Center.

The data shows more than 550 incidents in Mississippi Canyon, where the Deepwater Horizon platform is located. BP facilities in Texas had the most episodes (2,629) followed by Louisiana (2,205), which is bearing the brunt of the Deepwater Horizon disaster so far.

The records include reports of spills and gas releases at BP’s refineries, release of dangerous compounds from the company’s chemical operations, pipeline leaks, crude oil spills on the North Slope of Alaska, even jet fuel spills at airports from the company’s Air BP subsidiary. Some of the episodes, like Deepwater Horizon, are environmental disasters, others are comparatively minor.

INTERACTIVE MAP: Incidents citing British Petroleum reported to National Response Center, 1990-Present Source: National Response Center

Because the data is not standardized, finding all the Deepwater Horizon reports is difficult–a text search yields 11 reports, but additional records can be found by searching for “Mississippi Canyon 252,” the number of the well that exploded.

Many of the reports come from British Petroleum employees. One received on May 7, 2010, at 8:50 a.m., warned that the company was “conducting insitu-burning [on-site burning] of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill slicks in the Mississippi Canyon area in various blocks. It is likely that the rq [reportable quantity] will be exceeded for benzene, ethylbenzene, nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide.”

The report goes on to note that “The unified command has made the decision to conduct insitu-burns in conjunction will oil spill response. It is being conducted with regional response team approval. Federal, state and local agencies have been notified and are involved with response.”

The National Reporting Center also has an 800 number for the public to report events, as well as a web-based reporting system.

The data, available from the National Response Center’s download page, covers reported incidents that are forwarded to the National Response Team, which consists of 16 federal agencies that have the responsibility for coordinating cleanup, investigating the incident if warranted, and assessing fines or penalties. Data on which incidents resulted in fines or penalties is spread over those 16 agencies–the Coast Guard, for example, uses a database called the Marine Information Safety and Law Enforcement System (MISLE) when it disposes of cases.

The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group continues to search for resources and data for reporters and the public on the Deepwater Horizon disaster.