FAQ's—The Gulf Oil Spill


1.  How is Tulane helping to clean up the spill and with mitigation efforts?

Tulane is working with the governor's Office of Coastal Affairs to devise responses to the oil leak while university departments test water, soil and air for pollutants; recommend ways to mitigate the impact on fish, birds and wildlife and research the long-term effect of this disaster. Tulane has also developed a timeline of the disaster to enable responders to track day-to-day progress and has helped develop the Oil Spill Crisis Map, which tracks the impact of and the response to the crisis with reports from ordinary citizens. In addition, Tulane faculty are providing expert commentary for local and national media.


2.  If I want to volunteer to help with the clean up, how do I do that?

Volunteers should register at  By registering you will receive updates on when and if volunteers will be needed.


3.  What kind of effect is the spill having on human health?

The oil spill poses no health risks to people in New Orleans. New Orleans is located far from the site of the leaking oil. The Deepwater Horizon rig was 50 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River and over 130 miles from New Orleans.  Oil spills have their greatest impact on the ecology and wildlife, particularly birds. 


4.  Is the spill having a harmful effect on air quality in New Orleans?

No. The EPA began round-the-clock air monitoring along the entire Gulf Coast at the onset of the accident.  The results of the air monitoring indicate no presence of contaminants from the oil spill. New Orleans has very good air quality.


5.  Is the water in New Orleans safe to drink?

Absolutely. The spill is in saltwater in the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans' drinking water is obtained from freshwater sources. The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board announced that the oil discharge in the Gulf of Mexico has no effect on drinking water quality in New Orleans. The oil has not and is not expected to come up the Mississippi River or reach the city's water intakes. New Orleans drinking water is thoroughly treated to highest quality standards.


6.  Should I eat seafood in New Orleans?

Yes. Fishing areas where oil has been sighted are closed as a protective measure. Further, Louisiana has instituted a robust seafood monitoring program that is testing all seafood. There may be shortages of Louisiana seafood, but any product that reaches the market or restaurants is safe.


7.  Can you smell the oil?

Since smell is a very subjective sense there is no widespread consensus on this. While some New Orleans residents claim to have smelled oil on certain days when winds were coming from the south, most residents and visitors notice no oily odor. As noted above, the EPA began round-the-clock air monitoring along the entire Gulf Coast at the beginning of the incident and New Orleans has very good air quality.


8.  Is the spill negatively affecting the quality of life of Tulane students?

Not at all. However, many students are eager to volunteer to help in the clean up or assist those whose livelihoods have been imperiled by the spill. Also, the spill will provide research opportunities for students in environmental sciences, public health and other disciplines.


9.  Are there any special precautions students need to take?

No.The city of New Orleans is far enough away from the Gulf that there have been no public health advisories for residents regarding the oil leak.     

10.  Will the environmental effects of the spill reach New Orleans?

It is unlikely that the oil will reach the city, under normal weather conditions and uptown New Orleans, where Tulane is located, is almost certain to be unaffected, since the ground is elevated and there are no pathways to bring river or Gulf water to this part of the landscape. The tremendous flow of freshwater from the Mississippi River, upon whose banks New Orleans sits, pushes oil away from the mouth of the river. In addition, water is being pumped out of freshwater diversion canal on the east bank of the city to further keep contaminants away from the city. A barrier in east New Orleans, constructed to reduce the effects of storm surges, will also help minimize the amount of oil that could reach this area, which is also far from Tulane, in the event of a hurricane.


11.  How will the spill affect New Orleans' hurricane preparedness?

With reconstructed and additional levees, New Orleans is safer now than before Hurricane Katrina. The oil discharge will have no impact on Tulane's ability to enact its well-tested emergency plan that has safely evacuated all students, faculty and staff during various storms, including Hurricane Katrina.



Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000