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Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Continues

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Image by Sylvia duckworth via Creative Common LicenseThe oil rig that burned and sank last Thursday in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spill crude oil into the gulf at a rate of a thousand barrels a day. Blasted by an explosion and fire on Tuesday, 11 of the 126 workers are still missing, and experts are still trying to investigate the cause of the explosion.

The oil drilling rig, operated by Transocean Ltd., sank about 42 miles off the coast of Louisiana. While the oil spill has not reached the shore yet, officials claim that it may take two to four weeks to get the spill under control.

Environmentalists hope that the distance of the spill will keep it from reaching U.S. shorelines, but unfortunately, the depth of the spill will make it much harder to contain. The oil rig, which was drilling at a depth of 5,000 ft, has a blowout preventer on the floor of the gulf that is designed to prevent such accidents from happening, but the 450-ton equipment has failed to activate.

Proposed solutions by BP include drilling relief wells to divert the flow of oil to the site or building a dome to contain the spill, but the efficacy of both methods are unproven in such deep waters.

The explosion of the oil rig has conveniently occurred three weeks after President Obama’s decision to expand off-shore oil and gas drilling sites. Lawmakers are in the process of drawing buffer zones between rigs and shorelines, and the recent spill has churned political waters and drawn more attention to their pending decisions.

Additional concern is that damage from the oil spill could be seen years down the line, especially in the wildlife that call the Gulf of Mexico home. Currently, the Gulf of Mexico hosts various species of endangered sea turtles, birds, bluefin tuna, grouper, and snapper. The oil spill could interrupt reproductive and respiration systems in all species that live in and around the gulf.

Inquiries regarding regulations and safety of these off-shore drilling sites have been questioned as BP and the U.S. Coast Guard continue to distribute spill barriers, dispersants, and skimmers throughout the site to contain the expanding area. The U.S. Coast Guard reported last Thursday that the 5-mile long oil slick has the potential to become a major oil spill.

*Creative commons photo from geograph.org

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