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BP Complaints

Gulf Oil Spill Five Times Larger Than Previous Estimate

Posted on May 02, 2010 by bp complaints

“It’s premature to say this is catastrophic,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry, ” I will say that this is very serious,” quoted the Washington Post, as more oil leaked from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated Wednesday night that up to 5,000 barrels a day, not 1,000 as first stated, are spewing out of the well. That is five times BP’s previous estimate, according to various news outlets. Attempts to trigger a shutoff valve with robotic submarines proved unsuccessful Wednesday. Various environmental groups and scientists are predicting the spill could be one of the worst-ever environmental disasters in the Gulf.

BP, who operates the well and is responsible for cleanup, has now discovered a third leak.  But Doug Suttles, chief operating officer with BP Exploration and Production, said this does not change the overall amount of oil thought to be coming from the well, said nola.com. Suttles said he is certain that the new leak just emerged Wednesday.

As winds shifted to the southeast Wednesday, for the first time the forecast indicated that the outer bands of the amber colored oil slick will reach the southern edges of Louisiana’s coast by late Friday, according to nola.com.

“What we know is that from this trajectory … the outer boundary at the end of Friday shows it touching the Mississippi River delta in Louisiana,” said Charlie Henry, a scientific support coordinator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We do think there is a high risk of continued southeast winds that would push that oil a little bit further,” quoted nola.com.

Also on Wednesday, the Coast Guard reported that BP pulled in the thickest areas of the messy slick inside fireproof booms, lit and burned it for 28 minutes, in hopes of preventing extensive damage to coastal areas, said the Washington Post. But weather and other conditions could impact how well the operation works if continued. And it is thought to be successful with only thick oil, not a water-oil mix.

Kerry St. Pe, program director of the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, has done oil-spill cleanup with the state Department of Environmental Quality. He said the burning method is a worthy and well-tested approach, although it is not a panacea, said nola.com.

“I don’t think this is the solution to this spill. I think it’s a solution that they should try, and if they do get it cut off then the burn has been a great success,” St. Pe said. “When you have a spill like this, you try everything. You use all the cleanup methods you have at your disposal, and if the burn gets rid of even 5 percent of the oil, it’s 5 percent that wouldn’t have gotten rid of otherwise,” quoted nola.com.

Oil containment in a controversial, if not out-of-control, situation has prompted the Defense Department to be ready for assistance. Government officials said Wednesday they had urged BP to allow them to help protect the shoreline, said the Washington Post.

According to the Associated Press, a spokesperson for a U.S. military base in Colorado Springs, Colo., which provides support to civil authorities during natural disasters, said BP has not requested the defense department’s help for containment. However, the official said the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air Force Base were expecting the request.

If the spill reaches the coast, it could be both environmentally and economically debilitating for the affected states. According to a Bloomberg report, the Louisiana coast has 3 million acres of wetlands that serve as a nursery for game fish such as red drum and speckled trout, and are presently nurturing brown shrimp to be harvested by the state’s fishing fleet.

Louisiana’s seafood industry garners annual retail sales of about $1.8 billion, while its sports fishing operation pulls in about $1 billion each year for the state. The oil spill could cause long-term damage to the state’s marshes, seriously hurting both industries and the marshes house 5 million migratory birds, alligators, turtles and other species, said Bloomberg. Also, once pristine beaches would no longer lure tourists when covered in oily muck.

Environmentalists are fearing the slick could match the 11 million gallons that spilled during the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. At the current rate of spillage, it would take about 260 days for this incident to exceed the worst oil spill devastation in U.S. history.

The author is a writer for Parker, Waichman, Alonso LLP Law Firm


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