Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Spill Still Growing, Threatens Gulf Coast

The oil spill spawned by last week’s explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is growing, and now covers 1,800 square miles. On Sunday, the oil spill covered a mere 600 square miles. The well continues to spew an estimated 42,000 gallons, or 1,000 barrels, of oil into the sea every day.

Officials along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coasts are taking precautions to try to protect the fragile ecosystem there from the impact of the oil. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects the spill will reach the shore by Saturday, setting the stage for a major environmental disaster. The Delta National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for alligators, red-tailed hawks and brown pelicans, is one area that could feel the effects of the spill.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Louisiana’s $2.4 billion dollar per year sea food industry is at risk, as well. There are major harvesting areas for oysters and shrimp in the eastern part of the state, close to the spill’s area.

Crews are still using remote control vehicles in an attempt to shut off the well, which sits 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. As we reported yesterday, BP, which leased Deepwater Horizon from Transocean LTD, is also planning to drill relief wells in an attempt to channel the flow of oil into the existing well and permanently stop the leaking. But that process could take months.

A last chance effort to contain the spill could involve placing a dome over the well, but that solution has never been attempted in deep water. Nevertheless, BP has already begun building the dome, and said it could be two weeks before it is in place.

According to a statement from BP, more than 1,000 people are taking part in the oil-spill response.

Because of the risk of fire posed by the oil slick, a second offshore rig called Ocean Endeavor, which is leased by Exxon Mobile, was evacuated as a precaution. Ocean Endeavor sits about 10 miles from Deepwater Horizon.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion now ranks among the worst offshore drilling disasters in recent U.S. history. Eleven workers who were unaccounted for after last Tuesday’s blast are still missing. The search for those workers has been called off, and they are presumed dead. The fatalities make this the deadliest U.S. offshore rig explosion since 1968.

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