On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard’s Rear Admiral Mary Landry announced that problems in the Gulf of Mexico continue for the oil clean-up operation. A new oil leak, which is feeding the massive oil spill, is now estimated to be spilling up to 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons, of oil a day.
Likely to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history
During the initial parts of the clean-up, BP officials had claimed that the oil spill had been halted and the only oil would be the residual oil from the oil platform itself. That had changed in the days following to a leak in an uncontrollable oil well of up to 1,000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons, to today’s announcement of 5,000 barrels a day.
Oil rigs are being positioned to create relief wells in an attempt to reduce, or stop, oil flow into the Gulf. These wells could take up to three months in order for them to have the desired effect. That would create an oil spill of 450,000 barrels, or 18.9 million gallons, making this the largest oil spill in U.S. history, should it take the full three months. This would surpass the oil spill created by the grounding of the Exxon Valdezin Prince William Sound in 1989, where 11 million gallons of oil spilled out of the wrecked tanker.
BP fails to avert disaster
Containment of the oil slick no longer seems to be in the cards for well owner British Petroleum, or BP. As the oil slick roils around like a Rorschach test in the Gulf of Mexico’s water, BP has transitioned their response from containment to preventing massive beach damage. Along the coast, BP has arranged a series of barriers in hopes that this will prevent significant damage to important wetlands.
Even with the barriers in place, significant damage is the likely outcome from the large amount of oil just a few miles from making its first land fall in Louisiana. The toll on the fishing and shrimping industry are expected to be significant, and if oil does make it to any of the coastal beaches, tourism is likely to steeply drop off for coast hot spots.
Weekend landfall expected by many
As the weekend fast approaches, many residents along the coast fear the worst is about to come. The size of the oil slick continues to grow, and only a few scant miles are all that remain before landfall is official. Accuweather.com predicts that winds will push the oil slick to the northwest, right into the Mississippi Delta.
Without any real degree of accuracy in forecasting when or where landfall may occur, BP has placed equipment in several areas across the Gulf coast. Biloxi, Mississippi, one of the staging areas that BP has used to preposition barriers and equipment, is at the beginning of its fishing and tourist season. The annual “Blessing of the Fleet,” which is scheduled for June in Biloxi, may very well be a bust should oil saturate the beaches and fishing grounds.