Oil still spilling into the Gulf

Oil hovered 15 to 20 miles off Mississippi’s shoreline Tuesday, as British Petroleum resorted to Buck Rogers-type measures to deal with 210,00 gallons of crude oil still gushing daily from the ruptured drilling rig 5,000 feet below in the Gulf.

Controlled burns of escaping oil had been discontinued because of winds on Monday. Meanwhile, the giant containment structure and dome BP had fashioned to try and cover the weeping oil had failed when the cofferdam was obstructed by deep-water ice crystals.

BP went back to the drawing board and the oil kept flowing.

“At this point, it is still not contained,” Hancock County Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Adam said at a briefing Monday.

Jim Tsuchiya, a BP liaison in Hancock County, said efforts by the oil company to stop the flow are “not just BP – it’s industry-wide.”

And while Louisiana National Guardsmen worked alongside prisoners to fill sandbags for use in that state’s marshes Tuesday, Mississippians kept their own scorecard. By official accounts, the oil sheen or tarballs had not yet reached the Coast.

A suspect substance that washed up in the area of Buoy 53 off Ship Island was determined to be red algae. “It was not oil,” Adam said.

Other traces of tar found on Ship Island itself were discounted as old tar that was not associated with the Deepwater Horizon leakage.

But oil has long since invaded the Chandeleur Islands, and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said Monday that oil appeared headed toward Grand Isle, as the slick took a westerly direction.

All the while, efforts are underway to drill two relief wells at the site of the leakage, 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. That could take several months.

In the interim, BP came up with an alternative to the failed cofferdam, this one known as a “top hat.”

“We obviously had a disappointment with the dome,” BP Group CEO Doug Suttles said.

In contrast to the 40-foot-high cofferdam, he said, the top hat is only four feet in diameter, about five feet high, and weighs about two tons. There are plans to lower the device over the leak at the sea floor with a pipe already in place, then shoot methane and hot water down the pipe to combat ice crystals.

“We hope to deploy it later this week,” Suttles said.

Another tactic reportedly under consideration involves shooting debris, including golf balls, into the pipe in efforts to clog it. Concrete then could be injected to seal off the leaks.

In other developments this week:

• Officials of BP, Transocean, and Halliburton Co. – the three main companies involved in the controversial Deepwater Horizon operation – pointed fingers at one another during congressional hearings over the incident in Washington.

• The Coast Guard and the federal Minerals Management Service launched an investigation into the cause of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy that killed 11 workers in an April 20 explosion and fire.

• There were reports that six dolphin have been found dead in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama since May 2, but their deaths have not yet been officially linked to the oil.

• In Port Fourchon, National Guard soldiers and prisoners alike loaded giant sandbags that are being dropped by helicopters to dam breaches in the barrier islands. The bags are intended to stop oil that approaches the Louisiana marshes.

“We have to stay in a very serious readiness posture for what may or may not happen,” Landry said.

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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