BP Gulf Spill Cleanup Continues
NU Online News Service, Oct. 13, 2:44 p.m. EDT
While it may have faded away from the headlines, the cleanup from the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe has not stopped as efforts continue along the coasts of four states.
Government officials held a news conference today saying that more than 16,000 workers continue to respond to the oil spill along the Gulf Coast shores of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for the Deepwater Horizon spill, said it has been 176 days, and approaching six months since the oil rig exploded, killing 11 people and causing billions of dollars in losses. It has been three months since the oil leak was stopped and no oil has since leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
Cleaning continues along beaches, what he described as deep cleaning, to dig up and separate oil that has mixed in with the sand “to restore [beaches] to their natural conditions.” The areas most affected are the Florida panhandle, barrier islands off the coast of Mississippi and Louisiana marshlands.
Out of 16,200 people still working on the cleanup, 10,000 are working in Louisiana alone, in what Rear Adm. Zukunft called “labor intensive and time consuming,” operations.
He noted that testing of seafood from the Gulf continues and that to-date it has been found safe. He described the food as “the safest in the world” and said the catch from there does not deserve the stigma it has received.
Sam Walker, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there continues to be an “aggressive program” of monitoring the Gulf that is looking for hydro carbons or oil dispersement contamination. More than 31,000 samples have been taken and tested, he said, and updates on the quality of the Gulf’s waters can be expected shortly.
While the disaster in the Gulf has been costly, insurers have not been heavily impacted by the damage. Estimates put total insured losses as high as $3.5 billion, primarily covering the loss of the Deepwater Horizon rig. The result has been an increase in premiums for energy risks in the Gulf, but so far has not produced a market-wide shift in pricing.
Just yesterday, the federal government lifted the ban on deepwater drilling, issuing new rules and setting standards that must be met before drilling can resume.
The new regulations, issued by the Department of the Interior, tightened standards for well design, blowout preventers, safety certification, emergency response and worker training in the industry.