Sunday, 30 January 2011

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – an Environmental Crisis in making

Apr 30, 2010 Barbara Jezior
Skimmers are Used in Oil Spills - NOAA’s National Ocean Service
Skimmers are Used in Oil Spills - NOAA’s National Ocean Service
The recent oil spill in the Gulf could be the worst since the Exxon Valdez. Many agencies are working to contain it, but the outcome is questionable.
The struggle to contain the massive Gulf oil spill is now underway with multi-agency involvement and a multi-pronged attack with spill-mitigating technologies. President Obama visited the stricken area May 2nd and called it a "potentially unprecedented environmental disaster."
Janet Napolitano, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary has designated the oil spill of national significance and Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has declared a state of emergency. The spill is invading the Louisiana coastline and is a severe environmental threat to the Mississippi Delta that was also hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

Gulf of Mexico BP Oil Rig Sinking and Crude Oil Spill

The crisis began April 20th when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, caught fire, then sank in the Gulf of Mexico off Venice, Louisiana, leaving 11 crew members presumed dead. The crude oil leak resulting from the devastating event has been releasing oil at the rate of 5,000 barrels (200,000 gallons) a day.
BP, a U.K.-based oil company, which operated the oil rig, said it intends to place a dome over the leak and drill a relief well to block the flow of hydrocarbons, but the fix could take three months or more. This could well mean the spill could exceed that of Alaska’s Exxon Valdez environmental calamity in 1989, the worst spill in U.S. history.

Military Support of Gulf Oil Spill Containment

The U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, along with contractors and other personnel with hundreds of aircraft and vessels at their disposal, are working feverishly using different methods to prevent oil from getting ashore. Dispersants are being dropped which break down the oil chemically. There are thousands of feet of oil booms in place, which are floating barriers or fences to control the movement of spills in bodies of water, along with towable skimming systems, which as their name suggests, scoop oil off the water. The boom and skimming efforts will be less effective in high winds and high seas, a not uncommon occurrence in the Gulf.
The military are currently involved in containing the spill at sea, but other kinds of military help could be forthcoming, to include possible help in cleaning up the shoreline. A good portion of the Gulf shore area is marshland, which presents a much tougher clean-up challenge than a sandy stretch of beach, especially considering the ecosystems involved.

Environmental Damage Extent Unknown

The affected populace is gearing up for an ecological disaster and fishermen are pondering their future.
While the time it will take to fix the source of the oil leak is an open-ended question, there is no doubt hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil are still going to be released into the Gulf, and there will be environmental effects. Oil types, topographical features, and weather conditions all play a role in the time it takes before an area is restored to its original condition.


Fosset, Richard and Landsberg, Mitchell. “Fears of an Ecological Crisis Grow as Oil Spill Hits Shore,” The Press-Enterprise, April 30, 2010.
Gonzales, Angel. “Town That Lives Off the Sea Braces for Slick,” The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2010.
Robertson, Campbell and Fountain, Henry. “President Warns of Wide Damage From Gulf Spill,” The New York Times, May 30, 2010.
Robertson, Campbell. “U.S. Intensifies Bid to Control Oil Spill in Gulf,” The New York Times, April 30, 2010.
Copyright Barbara Jezior. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.