SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – 210,000 gallons of crude oil has been leaking into the ocean for three weeks now - more than enough to do extreme damage to the ecosystem in Louisiana's marshlands. It hasn't arrived yet.
But if it does arrive, those who clean it up can rely on vital information already gathered from the area.
"In 1996 we did baseline sampling and analysis throughout the marshlands and even throughout the red river here in Shreveport," said Gary Hanson who is now with the Red River Watershed Management Director at LSU Shreveport. Back in the 90's he had been commissioned by the state to gather the information.
"…in preparation of someday having an oil spill," said Hanson.
Unfortunately, that day is here.
But luckily state leaders had the foresight to plan ahead.
The state rich with natural resources, and lots of companies wanting a crack at it, opted to take inventory of these important wetlands.
"And there is some indication of previous indication of hydrocarbons from previous work," said Hanson.
Hundreds of red dots on a geological map provided by Hanson represent areas where samples were taken.
"…literally went out in boats, went out to these sites and we had a protocol set up where we'd go out and sample each site, multiple times, we'd mix the samples together and we'd send them in for analysis," said Hanson.
That analysis will illustrate a virtual before and after.
"The state of Louisiana is probably the most advanced state in the U.S. for having this type of data," said Hanson.
If the oil does pour into the sensitive ecosystem, Hanson and other geologists say they don't know if the baseline will ever be reached again.
But they can take solace in the fact that there's at least a goal to shoot for, unlike the 1989 incident involving the Exon Valdez. That's when the tanker spilled millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. To this day, it's not known how clean the water was in Prince William Sound, Alaska before the spill.