Contamination by BP oil spill still felt

Pelicans suffer from a chemical dispersant because of the spill.

The American white pelican, which spends its summers on Minnesota lakes and in other northern areas, faced threats for decades. The species has been recovering in recently, but it’s now facing a new problem — contamination from the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Joint research from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and North Dakota State University has found evidence of BP petroleum and the chemical dispersant Corexit in the white pelicans’ blood, beaks and eggs. The contamination rate among Minnesota’s pelicans may be as high as 90 percent. The presence of both oil and Corexit in pelican eggs may cause developmental abnormalities and reproductive problems in the birds for generations to come.

Further research is needed to determine the contamination’s full extent and effects. However, the damage to Minnesota’s pelican population was serious enough to be cited as evidence in the federal case against BP. Earlier this month, a federal judge found the oil company guilty of gross negligence.

Minnesota may be eligible for some of the billions in fines that BP must pay. The state could use this money to help bolster the populations of the American white pelican and other migratory bird species.

As host to a large percentage of the nation’s pelican population, and as a top leader in wildlife research through the DNR, the University of Minnesota and other institutions are worthy recipients of BP’s retributive payments. We hope the state will put any funds it receives to proper use.