Monday, June 19, 2006

Huge Black Bogs

More good news from Iraq:

An environmental disaster is brewing in the heartland of Iraq's northern Sunni-led insurgency, where Iraqi officials say that in a desperate move to dispose of millions of barrels of an oil refinery byproduct called "black oil," the government pumped it into open mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs next to the Tigris River and set it on fire.

The resulting huge black bogs are threatening the river and the precious groundwater in the region, which is dotted with villages and crisscrossed by itinerant sheep herders....

The elected governor of the province that contains Baiji and Makhul said in an interview that he was outraged by what was happening there. "I call upon the United Nations and the United States administration to make haste in saving the people of Baiji and Tikrit from an environmental catastrophe," said the governor, Hamad Hmoud al-Qaisi.
I'm sure BushCo will get right on that. Especially given that this problem is inconveniencing "the heartland of Iraq's northern Sunni-led insurgency."

This is not a new issue. Back in 2003, the black oil situation at the Baiji refinery was already very bad:
The refinery is operating at only about 50 percent of its 280,000-barrel-per-day capacity because storage tanks at the plant are filled with more than 30 million gallons of fuel oil, said the director, Riyad Ghassab.

Fuel oil used to be removed from Baiji by a pipeline, but that line is now being used to transport crude to the refinery because the normal crude line was severed by saboteurs, U.S. and Iraqi officials said.
Three years and billions of dollars later, whether by design or default, the situation has clearly gotten worse. Stay the course!

Just FYI, this area remains sacred to wingnut mythology as the omphalos of Saddam's WMD arsenal, thanks in part to the eerie powers of Bill Tierney:
"I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it," he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map.
Today's NYT article describes a ghastly outcome of the postwar embargo, of which I'd been blissfully unaware until now:
[I]n 1992, Iraqi engineers began drilling deep holes into Makhul, said Adnan Sammaraie, an Iraqi engineer who was then an Oil Ministry official and worked on the plans for the project.

The idea was to pump black oil and other refinery byproducts inside the mountains, where countless miles of cracks, caves and fissures could in theory contain almost limitless volumes, Mr. Sammaraie said. But the system was improperly monitored and it malfunctioned almost immediately, coughing up black oil and other polluted wastes and pouring them over the mountain range.
It's reckless speculation on my part, but I can't help wondering if all this drilling fueled the lurid fantasies of people like Bill Tierney, who warned of "deep tunnels" in the region's mountains.


Anonymous said...

Oy, vey.

Thers said...

I read that this morning and was absolutely horrified. I'd imagined all sorts of hells from this misbegotten adventure, and I was mostly right. But this is a fresh hell I'd not foreseen. makes me wonder about all the nightmares we don't even know about...