Media outlets are reporting this morning that oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill has arrived onshore in Louisiana’s wetlands and marshes. Oil from the spill also appears to have entered the Loop Current, which could eventually send it up the East Coast.
Yesterday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal reported seeing heavy oil after taking a boat tour of Pass a Loutre, La.. According to Jindal, the oil he saw was thick and heavy – not the sheen or tar balls that have been reported on other occasions. The governor said more than 30 miles of the state’s coastline had been oiled.
The governor said the oil spill has the potential to reverse progress made in the last two years in preserving the state’s wetlands. “Our state was on track to have the lowest rate of land loss in 80 years as a result of our efforts and investments in our coast,” he told reporters. “Our shrimpers were rebounding, our oyster fishermen were recovering and our coastal communities were rebuilding.”
According to an ABC News report, Jindal called on the Army Corps of Engineers to approve an application to begin dredging along the Gulf of Mexico in hopes of stopping the further spread of the spill.
It seems that BP, which leased the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and is responsible for cleanup of the spill, would rather news – or at least pictures – of the oil-covered Louisiana coastline be kept under wraps. According to a CBS News report, when one of its crews tried to film an oil-covered Louisiana beach, they were turned away by a boat full of BP contractors and two officials from the U.S. Coast Guard – under threat of arrest. Video of the incident clearly shows a Coast Guard official telling the CBS crew: “This is BP’s rules, it’s not ours.” The Coast Guard is reportedly investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said its latest observations indicated that a small portion of the Gulf of Mexico oil slick has reached the Loop Current. This could carry into the Florida Straits, where it could impact Florida and Cuba. Once in the Gulf Stream, it could impact the southeast coast of the U.S.
BP is still trying to cap the gushing well located 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico. The company says it has been able to use a 4-inch pipe to siphon as much as 3,000 barrels a day from a broken pipe on the sea floor. However, BP has said that at least 5,000 barrels are spewing from the well every day.
The company is preparing a procedure known as a “top kill” to try to permanently seal the well. According to a Bloomberg report, BP will try as early as May 23 to attempt the top kill, which involves injecting heavy drilling fluids and cement into the well to staunch the leak.
If the top kill fails, BP will have to rely on two relief wells it is drilling nearby to intercept the damaged well. But they will take as long as three months to complete.
The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which BP PLC leased from TransOcean LTD, exploded off the coast of Louisiana on April 20 and sank two days later. Eleven rig workers missing since the blast are presumed dead. The oil spill spawned by the blast has now grown to more than 7,500 square miles.
BP and the federal government estimate that at least 109,000 barrels (4.58 million gallons) of oil have leaked from the well since the explosion. However, other scientists have expressed fears that the true amount could be much higher.