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April 30th, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Update: Vessel Restriction, Drilling Hold

Big changes are taking place in the oil drilling industry as a result of the Transocean oil rig explosion early last week.  The White House put a hold on any new offshore oil projects until the rig disaster that caused the spill is explained.  A comprehensive oil well intervention and spill-response plan is underway following theTransocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion and subsequent sinking 130 miles southeast of New Orleans.  Nearly 2,000 personnel are involved in the response effort with additional resources being mobilized as needed.

Incident Facts:

  • More than 217,000 feet of boom (barrier) has been assigned to contain the spill. An additional 305,760 feet is available.
  • To date, the oil spill response team has recovered 20,313 barrels (853,146 gallons) of an oil-water mix. Vessels are in place and continuing recovery operations.
  • 75 response vessels are being used including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels.
  • 139,459 gallons of dispersant have been deployed and an additional 51,000 gallons are available.
  • Five staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines. These areas include: Biloxi, Miss., Pensacola, Fla. Venice, La., Pascagoula, Miss., and Theodore, Ala.
  • A sixth staging area is being set up in Port Sulphur, La.

126 people were on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig when the incident occurred. 11 remain unaccounted for; 17 were injured, 3 of them critically. 1 injured person remains in the hospital.

The U.S. imposed its first restrictions on shipping into the Mississippi River, the most important North American waterway, as the massive BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico moves closer to land.

Ships were ordered by the Coast Guard to slow down in three of the four lanes connecting to the river to prevent damage to vessels and injuries to workers maintaining a boomed-off safety area around the oil spill, according to a bulletin issued by the Coast Guard yesterday. Traffic through the main deepwater channel, the Southwest Pass, is not restricted.

A 500-meter (1,640-foot) security zone around the spill area is in place for the next three days, according to the Coast Guard. The oil is about three miles (4.8 kilometers) from the nearest point of land.

“It is our goal to not allow the disruption of traffic on the Mississippi River,” U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry said today at a press conference. “We cannot disrupt maritime commerce.”

The boomed-off safety area is in the vicinity of the river’s three entrances, the South Pass, the Southeast Pass and the Pass a Loutre, the bulletin showed. Vessels going through the area should move “at a slow bell to assist in maintaining a no wake zone,” according to the bulletin.

The Coast Guard said today the damaged BP oil well is leaking about 5,000 barrels a day, five times more than previously estimated.  Vessels going through the oil spill can further disperse and expand the slick, and oil is flammable and is thus dangerous to navigate through.

To combat the spill, two Air Force C-130s were sent to Mississippi and awaited orders to start dumping chemicals on the oil spill.  The oil slick could soon become the nation’s worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening to become the worst oil spill in our nation’s history, even worst than the Exxon Valdez, the grounded tanker that leaked 11 million gallons in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. The sheen imperils hundreds of species of fish, birds and other wildlife along the Gulf Coast, one of the world’s richest seafood grounds, teeming with shrimp, oysters and other marine life.  Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal declared a state of emergency so officials could begin preparing for the oil’s impact. He also asked the federal government if he could call up 6,000 National Guard troops to help.

To report oiled or injured wildlife, please call 1-800-557-1401.

To discuss spill related damage claims, please call 1-800-440-0858.

To report oil on land, or for general Community and Volunteer Information, please call 1-866-448-5816.

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