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FEATURE

The Gulf Coast Oil Spill: An ecological disaster years in the making





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The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has now reached the Gulf Coast and will likely eclipse the Exxon Valdez disaster in its impact on the ecology of the fragile region. In its potential path: the Mississippi Delta below New Orleans with its wetlands, fishing grounds and wildlife sanctuaries; the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi to the Florida Panhandle.
BATON ROUGE, La. (April 30) -- Fingers of greasy sheen from a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico have reportedly begun lapping the Louisiana shoreline, the first salvo in what could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades

Crews in boats were patrolling coastal marshes early today along the coast looking for areas where the oil has flowed in, the Coast Guard told The Associated Press.

AP said the oil slick could become the nation's worst environmental disaster in decades, threatening to eclipse even the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in scope. It 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.
The oil rig disaster is far from over. The Deepwater Horizon offshore rig, built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries and operated by Transocean, Ltd. under lease by British Petroleum (BP) (who denied problems with a similar platform, was a semi-submersible deep water rig that has multiple lines some 5,000 feet below the surface. That means the lines leaking are both under pressure and difficult to cap. The rig exploded on April 20, 2010 with eleven crew members missing and presumed dead. The rig sank on April 22, 2010, setting the stage for one of the worst oil spills in decades.

Brazil and other countries require a special emergency shut-off mechanism on their offshore rigs. The Deepwater Horizon rig was not subject to that requirement by the United States. Continued...

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