After days of stories with increasingly bad news filtering from various agencies dealing with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, USA, the US Coast Guard has now told that original estimates for the amount of oil spewing into the ocean could have been underestimated by as much as five times.
The figure now being reported is that as much as 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons) of oil per day could be pumping into the ocean from the riser which broke free and is leaking in at least three places – at least one further leak has been found – since the BP controlled oil rig Deepwater Horizon sank on 22 April 2010.
If, as the Coast Guard reported could happen yesterday, the efforts to stem the flow of oil take as long as two months, this could well be the biggest oil spill in World history, eclipsing even the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989 where 11 million gallons of oil were spilled off the coast of Alaska, USA.
“The NOAA is telling me now they’d prefer we use at least 5,000 barrels a day,” reported Rear Admiral Mary Landry for the US Coast Guard, referring to the amount of oil which is issuing from the broken riser.
This new National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration estimate is based upon the huge amount of oil showing on the surface, as well as other environmental clues, which indicate there is significantly more oil in the ocean than previously thought – as much as 5 times more.
BP who is responsible for the clean-up operation, must hope that they can shut off the oil issuing into the ocean soon, or they risk becoming the company which failed to prevent the worst oil spill in history.
Worse still, according to meteorologists, is the fact that winds expected Friday may push the huge oil slick into the Mississippi Delta region of Louisiana, at which point this huge oil spill will become a major environmental catastrophe. The oil could reach the coast line as early as Friday evening.
The US Coast Guard yesterday carried out the first controlled burns of oil, collected on the surface of the ocean using special vessels, in an effort to minimize the damage caused to the coast if and when it eventually comes into contact with the mighty slick.
President Barrack Obama has been kept informed of the developments, and has promised to lend the assistance of the Defense Department, should it be required.
Questions are yet to be answered regarding the initial low estimates which were widely reported, as well as the reasons why the “emergency stop valve” on the ocean floor does not work.
According to the current highest estimates, the chain of events last week and the lack of a working “stop valve” on the riser which begins 5,000 feet under the ocean, could well be the cause of the worst oil spill this planet has ever seen.