Obituary Finally Written for BP Oil Well, But Spill Fallout Will Linger for Years

The ruptured well that set off the massive BP oil spill has finally been declared dead. Sadly, people who live and work along the US Gulf Coast will likely have to live with the spill’s repercussions for years.

The BP oil spill began on April 20, when a massive explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 men. More than 4 million barrels of oil gushed into the ocean before BP was able to cap the well from above on July 15. Hundreds of miles of US coastline were fouled by oil, and the Gulf Coast’s vital seafood and tourism industries were devastated in the aftermath.

In a statement released over the weekend, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen declared BP’s well was “effectively dead” and said tests verified the strength of a cement plug placed at its bottom. “Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken, but we can now state, definitively, that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico,” he said.

A relief well that BP had been drilling since May finally intersected the ruptured well on Thursday. Over the weekend, the well was killed by pumping mud up through its bottom, and then it was sealed with the cement plug.

There’s still no consensus on how much damage the BP oil spill actually caused, as the cleanup is still ongoing. As we’ve reportedly previously, a government report released in August maintained that 3/4 of the oil was already gone, or was being broken down by bacteria. However, other scientists disagree. Last month, for example, we reported that scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution had discovered an underwater plume of hydrocarbons 22 miles long deep beneath the surface of the ocean, casting doubts on the government’s optimistic claims.

Thousands of people and businesses along the Gulf Coast are still waiting for their compensation claims to be paid, and lawsuits stemming from the disaster will take years to resolve. BP and its partners on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig face numerous investigations, some of them criminal. Finally, the oil industry as a whole is facing greater scrutiny, and the specter of more government oversight and regulation.

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