The U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies began a controlled burn of BP/Transocean's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, according to a press release issued yesterday. The burn is designed to contain damage to the coastline, as the spill continues to grow.
"You can't really say it's a better answer," David Helvarg, president of Blue Frontier, told The Daily Green. "It is, to the degree that amputation is better than gangrene."
The U.S. Coast Guard is trying to find a way to handle an unprecedented situation, argued Helvarg, who wrote the recent book Rescue Warriors: The U. S. Coast Guard, America's Forgotten Heroes, and who was recently named an "ocean hero" by TDG. The offshore drilling site is deeper than in previous spills and efforts to cap the spill, which happened on April 20, have been unsuccessful. With the spill now estimated to be even faster and larger than originally thought, concern is growing.
This type of controlled burning emits a large plume of smoke that would dump carbon and soot into the atmosphere, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration. This pollution highlights the breadth of impacts the spill will have on the global ecosystem.
But the effect to the coastline had to be considered, according to what NOAA representative told the New York Times, as officials determined whether the controlled burn would be the best option.
The slick may reach the Mississippi Delta by the weekend, according to AccuWeather.com. There's little proof that a controlled burn will be truly effective in a spill of this size, said Helvarg.
And there is no sign yet that the spill can be contained any time soon. A spill last year off the Australian coast took months to contain. A containment chamber was finished yesterday, designed to collect the oil as it spills out.
Officials still do not know how large the spill is, though they anticipate it to be significantly smaller than one of the most notorious spills of all time, the Exxon Valez, which dumped over 10 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, according to NOAA.
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