As BP Oil Company has success capturing some of the oil from the leak caused by an explosion April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil slick continues to creep closer to the Florida Keys and the East Coast.
In a news release Tuesday, BP said the mile-long tube siphoning oil from the blown-out well is capturing 2,000 barrels a day now. Despite this progress, 2,000 barrels is actually only a fifth of what is still leaking out a day. Now, worries are escalating about the oil slick reaching a major ocean current that could carry it through the Florida Keys and up the East Coast.
Scientists said on Sunday, May 16, they had found vast underwater plumes of oil, one 10 miles (16km) long and a mile wide. This evidence contributes to the fears of those who believe the actual spill could be many times greater than the estimate of 5,000 barrels daily.
BP says a more complete solution is needed. The next step is to try to pump mud and other materials to the sea floor and block the well. “Our anticipation is that it will be another seven to ten days to complete all of the preparations that we need to exercise this option and then at that point, we’ll pump the kill mud and hopefully have this well killed, and well shut off, and the flow shut off,” BP Vice President Kent Wells said.
The final choice to end the leak is a relief well, but it is more than two months from completion. Top officials in President Barack Obama’s administration cautioned that the tube “is not a solution.”
“We will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead, the spill is cleaned up, and the communities and natural resources of the Gulf Coast are restored and made whole,” Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a joint statement.
Speaking Monday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano addressed the crisis.
“I think we need to just say, look, we are at the middle of this crisis. We are not at the beginning. We’ve been at it for a month. But we’re not near the end, as well. And in my view, our job is to just keep moving. Keep assembling, deploying, preparing, cleaning,” she said.
“Our efforts offshore are making a big difference now,” BP PLC chief operating officer Doug Suttles said.
The company announced massive new payouts to help Gulf states battle the expected hit to beach tourism: $25 million for Florida and $15 million each for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
BP made $25 million payments to each of the four states on May 5 to offset cleanup costs.