BP was successful in capping the Deepwater Horizon well and stopping oil from leaking into the Gulf waters. Over the weekend, while tropical depression Bonnie seemed close to becoming Hurricane Bonnie, cleanup crews stopped work; but now the crews, although back at work, are having a hard time finding any oil to clean up.
While skimmers picked up 25,000 barrels of oil in just one day two weeks ago, last Thursday they could find only 200 barrels. The crews sent by ABC News to look around the marsh areas and the water near the rig found no oil in either place.
This does not mean there is no oil anywhere in the Gulf waters. There is still oil beneath the surface and still a lot of oil patches on the surface, but it is a far smaller amount – compared to the size of New Hampshire in one news report, instead of the size of Kansas.
•“It’s mother nature doing her job,” said Ed Overton, a professor of environmental studies at Louisiana State University.
Oil Always Present in the Sea
Oil is continually leaking from the ocean bed, worldwide. Ocean water contains billions of microorganisms that digest it, keeping the waters clean. That is indeed “mother nature” doing her work. Further, as oil rises to the water surface, several factors cause it to break down without any help from cleanup crews:
•Wind and wave action
•Hot air temperatures
•Very warm water
In addition, BP crews have used chemical dispersants to break up the oil. The dispersants work like soap, containing molecules that attract oil at one end and water at the other and thus combine the two on a microscopic level. BP’s goal has been to make the oil sink to the Gulf floor so that bacteria will ingest it and send it harmlessly along the food chain.
How Big is This Leak?
CNBC has described the estimated size of this Gulf of Mexico oil spill (more properly called an oil leak, as spills occur from tankers whereas this is leaking from the ocean bed) by comparing it to previous oil spills. With the size of the current spill thought to be between 182 and 184 million gallons, it is:
•Larger than Mexico’s Ixotoc spill in 1979 (140.3 million gallons);
•Larger than the Exxon Valdez tanker spill (10.8 million gallons); but
•Smaller than the Kuwaiti spill, deliberately leaked by Saddam during the Persian Gulf War (239.4 gallons)
Those previous spills have entirely cleaned themselves up by now, which suggests that the Gulf of Mexico will eventually clean up also.
Please see Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill for more information.
If you have been harmed by the Gulf oil spill and wonder if you have a valid legal claim, please contact our office in Mobile, Alabama for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced oil spill attorneys.