Oil spill remains 30 mls offshore
The damage caused by the oil rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and sunk is causing 1000 barrels, or 42,000 gallons of oil to leak from a well a mile below the surface.
A robotic submarine is being used to try and plug the leak, but officials said it would take another day before they could confirm the well had stopped leaking. The robot submarines activate valves at the well head, but this traditionally take 24 to 36 hours to complete. If that doesn’t work, crews are also planning to drill a relief well to cut off the flow – which could take several months.
The Coast Guard confirmed the oil spill shouldn't threaten the US coastline, suggesting that it should remain around 30 miles off-shore for around three more days.
"What crude oil tends to do is float to the surface and then under wave action it turns into what looks like chocolate mousse and sinks. It’s way too early to tell [the impact,]" said James Cowan, an oceanography and coastal sciences professor at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Despite being a "very serious spill," the spill doesn't compare to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, where 11 million gallons of oil was dumped in Alaska’s Prince William Sound - the worst oil spill in US history.
"It has the potential to be pretty serious, but at 1000 barrels a day, if it comes to the surface they’ll probably be able to contain it and vacuum it up," Cowan said.
With regard to the best suitable method of cleanup, Doug Suttles, chief operating officer for BP Exploration and Production said: "Over the next several days, we should determine which method is the best one to follow."
Environmental impact on wildlife in Gulf spill
The environmental impact of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is difficult to ascertain this early after the spill, but with such a fragile eco-system and endangered marine mammals, the effects could become catastrophic.
The Gulf region contains about five million acres of wetlands, which are an essential habitat for three quarters of all of the migrating waterfowl that cross the US.
There are more than 3300 marine species in the Gulf, including six endangered species of whale. Its shores include the only known nesting beach of Kemp’s Ridley, the world’s most endangered sea turtle. There are also populations of protected Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles, which are about to begin their nesting season and would be particularly vulnerable to oil washed up on beaches.
There are several shark species declared to be "of concern" because of declining populations. The Gulf is also home to one of the world’s largest populations of bottlenose dolphins, with an estimated 45,000 in its waters.
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