Gulf of Mexico Spill: Worse Than the Exxon Valdez?

Apr 29, 2010 5:39pm

That's what Nancy Kinner of the joint NOAA/University of New Hampshire Coastal Response Research Center says could happen, in a conversation passed on by Matt Gutman of our staff.

Quoting an update from Matt: "The uncontrolled spill will continue to pound the same fragile coastline, 'a highly productive coastal estuary teeming with life, a huge population of birds, this is big.'"

Kinner, quoted by Matt: “We’ve never had anything like this in the Gulf, this close to the shorelines.”

Some numbers on the oil spill provided this afternoon by the Coast Guard:

The slick is 3 miles south of the nearest point of land. It is 25 miles south of nearest populated point of land (Venice, Louisiana, the southernmost town on the Mississippi River). 18,180 barrels of oil & oil/water mix have been collected (763,560 gallons).  This does not include oil burned in yesterday’s experiment.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard has released video of its controlled burn of some of the surface oil from Wednesday afternoon.  Click to take a look:

Kinner adds, “If this was just an isolated event and this wasn’t a slick that didn’t keep being fed, it would be much easier to deal with, but as long as oil keeps coming out of the well, then this slick keeps being created, making it really hard to deal with.”

Matt reports Kinner saying that "since it could take 60-90 days to drill the relief wells to securely plug the damaged well, she believes this spill could exceed the 11-million-gallon Valdez spill."

There are some pretty big ifs in there — if the oil continues to spew at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day from the floor of the gulf…if no other effort to stop it works — but you get her point.  For now, the spill is still dwarfed by the Exxon Valdez.  But it's big, and threatening, and getting bigger.(Image credit: NASA's Aqua satellite from Wednesday, from Goddard Space Flight Center/Earth Observatory.)

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