Hancock wants tools to fight oil

While British Petroleum plans its “top kill” technique today, to try and stop crude oil from gushing into the Gulf, officials in Hancock County are worried they may not have necessary resources on hand to stop the oil if it floats into local waters.

The director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday that he has asked a contractor for British Petroleum to send skimmers and other oil-fighting materials from Biloxi to Hancock County as soon as possible. The materials are being stored by U.S. Environmental, a company hired by BP.

EMA Director Brian Adam said he had not actually seen the oil-fighting materials, but was assured by U.S. Environmental representatives that supplies earmarked for Hancock County were being stored in Biloxi.

“We don’t really want a Katrina situation, where when something happens, everything’s over there” in another county, Adam said.

Kenneth Hayes, a representative for U.S. Environmental, also stressed Monday that BP could well decide to move oil-fighting supplies to Louisiana instead of leaving them on standby in Mississippi.

“If you lose your resources, you’ve had it,” Hayes told Hancock County emergency officials.

At daybreak this morning, BP was ready to begin a new technique to stop the oil flow at the Deepwater Horizon well site, 50 miles off Louisiana. It was to be the latest in a string of techniques that have failed to stop the gushing well.

So far, minimal estimates are that 210,000 gallons daily have been flowing from the ruptured well directly into the Gulf for 31 days.

The top kill consists of shooting heavy drilling mud into two lines being attached to the well’s blowout preventer, 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf. BP chief executive Doug Suttles said Monday that if the top kill works, concrete could then be pumped in to seal the leak, or a new blowout preventer could be placed on top of the failed blowout preventer.

“By Wednesday evening, we’ll know if it’s successful. If it’s successful, the oil should stop flowing,” Suttles told reporters in a telephone technical briefing. However, he added, “It’s possible that it will not be a success.”

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caught fire and exploded on April 20 and the rig sank two days later. Eleven workers died in the accident.

This week, the discovery of tarry and oily materials on local beaches had slowed, as have the numbers of dead fish and other marine life on Hancock beaches, EMA official Jesse Finneran said. However, no results have yet been returned from tests taken on materials found on local beaches eight days ago.

The oil situation has worsened in Louisiana, with oil washing ashore at Grand Isle, Barataria Bay, and other locations.

“It’s too close to us to not get something” in Mississippi, Adam said during an emergency management briefing Monday. “Oil is all over Louisiana, and it’s not that far from us. We’ve got to keep our vigilance.”

Meanwhile, BP continued this week to insist that oil flowing from the ruptured well is not likely any more than the 210,000-gallon official daily estimate given by the company and the federal government for weeks. Some academics and other scientists have estimated the flow could be as high as several million gallons daily.

“I don’t think it’s a gross under-estimation,” Suttles said of the 210,000-gallon figure. He said
he is “confident” that the rate of oil escaping “is nowhere near many of the estimates we’ve seen on TV.”

As the top kill was being prepared Tuesday, Hancock County officials were also mindful that hurricane season is about to begin.

“If we get a tropical storm or a hurricane and it throws water here, guess where the oil is going?” Adam said.

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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