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Drury professor: There's more to the oil leak than just oil

For Immediate Release: June 4

Media Contact:
Dr. Sean Terry, Office: (417) 873-6963, Mobile: (417) 576-7304,
Mark Miller, Director of Media Relations at Drury, Office: (417) 873-7390, Mobile: (417) 839-2886,
Bill Johnson, Halstead Communications, (212) 734-2190 x701,

See Dr. Terry featured on KMOV in St. Louis

SPRINGFIELD, Mo., May 27, 2010 – Everyone hopes that sooner rather than later, the millions of gallons of crude gushing from the leaking deep-sea oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico will be stopped and cleaned up, but one expert says the more significant, long-term disaster will be the impact of waste oil products being released into the ocean along with the crude oil.

In fact, Dr. Sean Terry, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies at Drury University, says the leaking oilrig is a reminder that every oil well on earth is causing environmental degradation, with little oversight in the U.S. and nearly none at all in other countries.

"That mud they tried to use to plug up the leak is not natural mud,” says Terry. It's an industrial lubricant, with toxic ingredients. In addition to this, raw oil comes out of the ground with more ingredients than just oil and natural gas. "It also includes water, salt and toxic metals in a brine, and up to 10 gallons of this waste product are produced for every gallon of crude pumped from any well on earth." These toxic materials are flowing into the Gulf of Mexico in addition to the crude oil, and they may pose a more serious, and more long-term environmental threat than the oil itself.

Dr. Terry can discuss:

  • How Gulf oilrigs try to dispose of wastewater in rubber-lined estuary pits, but when storm high tides come, the wastewater often is washed into the gulf or ocean.
  • How the material BP is proposing to use to plug the leak is not "mud" but actually waste products from petroleum extraction that is another pollutant.
  • His research in oil fields in Oklahoma and Texas, how toxic scars on the landscape still linger from drilling that took place 100 years ago, how companies then dumped wastewater on the ground and the salts and metals destroyed any growth. Then how they tried pumping it into abandoned wells, polluting groundwater, which, ironically, flows even today into the Red and Arkansas Rivers, then into the Mississippi and ends up polluting the Gulf, which Terry calls the "toilet" of the U.S.
  • Why oil companies are immune to regulation for disposal of these waste products.
  • The bioaccumulation of this toxic waste in the Gulf that he foresees being a factor in the food chain for a minimum of a decade. “There is still not a blade of grass in many areas of Oklahoma from oil waste dumped in 1914,” he says.
  • How the mercury, lead and other toxins will not only degrade fish and seafood quality, but also the reproductive health of all Gulf species.
  • Why we need stricter regulation of waste oil products in this country and around the world.

Dr. Terry received a master's degree in resource planning at Missouri State University and a Ph.D. in environmental geography from the University of Oklahoma. His dissertation focused on surface impacts and landscape change in the Healdton Oil Field in Oklahoma.


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