It’s been almost a month since an oil rig about 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico exploded and resulted in what has since promised to become one of the greatest ecological disasters of all time. Within 2 days of the explosion, an oil slick approximately 5 square miles appeared in the Gulf. At the time, it wasn’t known if that was residual oil from the fire on the rig or if there was a leak. Within a few days, it’s confirmed that there is an active leak with initial guesstimates by the Coast Guard put the oil gushing out at about 1000 barrels a day; it was then upped to 5000 per day. That number has since been revised to upwards of 70,000, but BP won’t allow scientists to use special equipment in an effort to better estimate that number.
By the end of April, over 100,000 gallons of chemical dispersant are used to prevent the oil from reaching shore. This in itself is a problem. In most circles, chemical dispersant is seen as a necessary evil: something that keeps lots of oil from reaching shores, yet something that’s chemical makeup is unknown to the public. Because dispersant is not known to the public, it’s safety is a question. In fact, one such dispersant being used, Corexit, is banned in Britain. Corexit was used in the ’89 clean up of the Exxon Valdez and has been linked to health problems in humans and development problems in wildlife.
Dispersants, as the name implies, work by separating oil molecules from one another. This allows the surrounding water to more easily dilute the oil. Oil isn’t being removed, it’s just being broken up. In the meantime, oil is reaching the shore along some parts of the gulf coast. And scientists believe the oil may soon hit currents that sweep across the Keys and into the Atlantic Ocean. Congress is calling for an independent investigation and the government remains at the mercy of BP to stop the leak.
After a failed attempt to put a coffer dam over the top of the outlet, BP has essentially stuck a straw in to suck out some of the oil and capture it. Right now they’re only getting about 2000 barrels a day–far less than the total spewing out–but no better technologies are currently being deployed. Unfortunately, the thicker type of oil that’s spilling is harder to clean up.
When BP suggested they might try plugging the leak with shredded tires and other junk, some people on the Internet thought plugging the leak with BP execs might be a better solution. Where there isn’t humor, there’s always good ole American ingenuity. CNN is currently hosting ideas on its iReport site in search of ways to clean up the spill. And you may have heard that hair and fur are being woven to remove oil from the water. Watch the video below to see how it works and considering donating.
Finally, there is no solution that will stop this leak anytime soon and the effects of the leak will probably be felt for years to come. It will be interesting to see if any new legislation or oversight comes from this disaster. But in parting, I leave you with this stunning image published yesterday from NASA.
Filed under: Today's Science | Tagged: BP, CNN, Congress, Deepwater Horizon, Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Disaster, Dispersant, Ecological Disaster, Environment, Environmental Disaster, Environmentalism, Epic Fail, Exxon Valdez, Fur, Hair, NASA, Oil, Oil Dispersant, Oil Spill, Oilpocalypse, Satelite Image, Satelite Imagery, YouTube |