Deepwater Horizon

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

April 20, 2017 marks the seventh anniversary of the explosion on the off shore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that created the worst oil spill and environmental catastrophe in U.S. history.  Deepwater Horizon is also the name of the movie that dramatizes  the disaster.  The rig was leased by BP to drill oil from the Macando Well in the Gulf of Mexico about 41 miles off the southeast coast of Louisiana.  126 crew members were on board.  The project was 43 days behind schedule and 50 million dollars over budget.  As a result, pressure was put on Tranocean, the company hired by BP to drill the well, to finish up and move the rig to the next scheduled well.  The concrete that was poured was not given enough time to cure and it was not tested for strength.  BP made the decision to forgo proper testing  in order to save $125,000.  Transocean insisted on other other more cost effective safety tests that yielded conflicting results.  While the first pressure test generated ominous results,  the second one was fine.  Ultimately and regretably, the decision was made to complete operations there and to move on. 

That night, a faulty well design, weak cement and lack of adequate cement testing caused the well to blow forcing gas and oil to surge into the rig with so much intensity that it could not be controlled.  The oil and gas exploded causing a fire that could be seen 40 miles away.  Because of the lack of regular maintenance to the Deepwater Horizon and the lack of emergency training for extreme catastrophic situations,  all of the safety instruments and measures in place that would have cut off the flow of oil, cap the well and disconnect the rig from the well failed.  Eleven crew members were killed and many suffered terrible injuries.  Oil spewed from the well for 87 days before it could be sealed.  Tragically, 210,000,000 gallons of oil flowed into the gulf seriously injuring wildlife and contaminating the environment.

So why am I writing about this and what is the connection to dentistry?  While I think it was a movie that is definitely worth seeing, I’m writing about this film because it shows you how catastrophic things can get when costs are cut and maintenance is ignored.  While things rarely go so wrong, it is not a good idea to just hope things will be fine.  It was said in the movie that, “Hope ain’t a tactic.”

Early in the film, Jimmy Harrell, the boss of the Deepwater Horizon asks his chief  electronics technician, Mike Williams, if he brushed and flossed.  This will save him a lot of pain and money in the long run, he explains.  He later proceeds to tell two BP executives who have just cancelled the cement test in an effort to save time and money,  that they were just like his granddad.  “My granddaddy never even went to the dentist.  He didn’t want to know what was wrong because then he’d have to deal with it.”  Daily brushing and flossing keeps you healthy.  Going to the dentist regularly helps to discover any health issues while they are small and very manageable.  I don’t know if Jimmy Harrell really did make those comments but I think  it’s great that the movie makers chose to make that analogy.

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