Oil Spill Updates: What You Need to Know

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It’s been five weeks since the catastrophic explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform and since then, millions of gallons of sticky black oil have killed countless animals and fouled sensitive wetlands along the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet, the spill still hasn’t been contained, those responsible are still pointing fingers at each other and we’re all waiting for a decisive response from the government. Meanwhile, oil regulators have been sitting around watching porn and using crystal meth. Everything’s under control, people! Please ignore the nauseating sight of suffocating seabirds!

Here’s a quick rundown on the latest oil spill news:

Officially the Worst The U.S. Geological Survey has officially confirmed what we already knew: the Deepwater Horizon spill is far worse than the Exxon Valdez disaster. 12,000 – 19,000 barrels of oil have been pouring into the ocean for 36 consecutive days. USGS Director Dr. Marcia McNutt says 130,000 to 270,000 barrels remain on the surface of the water, while about an equal amount has been burned, skimmed, dispersed or evaporated.

Top Kill Stops Spill? After numerous failed efforts to contain the spill, including attempts to cap the gushing pipe with a “top hat”, BP decided they’d try to cut off the pipe altogether using a method called a “top kill”, injecting cement over the well to seal it. As of early Thursday, the oil giant refuses to say whether this latest cleanup effort is working, but the Coast Guard reports that the pipe seems to have been plugged.

Don’t Drill, Baby Just weeks after President Obama’s controversial statement that offshore drilling may be a necessary part of U.S. energy independence, his administration has not only fired the head of the Minerals Management Service for lax oversight of offshore drilling, but will also extend the offshore drilling ban.

Volunteer Illness This much oil is bound to have an effect on human health, and some oil spill respondents are already falling ill. Crew members on three of the commercial fishing vessels that were helping to clean up spilled oil have been hospitalized with severe nausea, headaches and dizziness. The Coast Guard has sent all 125 commercial vessels filled with volunteers back to the shore as a precaution.

BP Seeks Oily Judge BP is still trying to deflect legal blame, but they’re hoping that in the 100-odd  lawsuits already filed against them for oil spill damage and worker deaths, they’ll have at least one person on their side. BP is requesting that a single judge with oil ties, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, will handle all pre-trial issues.

Impact on Wildlife Most of the oil might be under the surface of the sea where we can’t see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not already affecting wildlife. One scientist called the impact “a slow moving train wreck” with effects that will “go on for years, if not decades.” Louisiana’s marshes in particular are a critical habitat for wildlife, and the Gulf of Mexico is home to the endangered sperm whale. Countless other species including sea turtles, pelicans, manatees and bottlenose dolphins are also at risk.

Image: IBRRC

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.