A summary of events on Friday, May 21, Day 31 of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with the April 20 explosion and fire on the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon, owned by Transocean Ltd. and leased by BP PLC, which is in charge of cleanup and containment. The blast killed 11 workers. Since then, oil has been pouring into the Gulf from a blown-out undersea well at a rate of at least 210,000 gallons per day.
With each day, the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is adding up to mind-boggling numbers. Using worst-case scenarios calculated by scientists, a month's worth of leaking oil could fill enough gallon milk jugs to stretch more than 11,300 miles. That's more than the distance from New York to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back. That's just shy of 130 million gallons. If the government's best case scenario is used — and only 5.25 million gallons have spilled — those milk jugs would cover a bit more than a roundtrip between New York and Washington.
Thick, sticky oil crept deeper into delicate marshes of the Mississippi Delta, an arrival dreaded for a month since the crude started spewing into the Gulf. Anger and frustration mounted over efforts to plug the gusher from a blown-out well and contain the spill. Brown and vivid orange globs and sheets of foul-smelling oil the consistency of latex paint have begun coating the reeds and grasses of Louisiana's wetlands, home to rare birds, mammals and a rich variety of marine life.
On Friday, officials in the island resort community of Grand Isle, south of New Orleans, announced they were closing the public beach because thick globs of oil that looked like melted chocolate were washing up.
BP now says it will likely be at least Tuesday before engineers can shoot heavy mud into then blown-out well spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Three ultra-deepwater rigs and other equipment are at the site where the Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded. They're preparing for a delicate procedure called a "top kill" that BP hopes will stop the flow of oil from the well.
Whose in Charge?
Days after the Gulf Coast oil spill, the Obama administration pledged to keep its "boot on the throat" of BP to make sure the company did all it could to cap the gushing leak and clean up the spill. But a month after the explosion, anger is growing about why BP PLC is still in charge of the response. Officials in Louisiana and Florida are frustrated, along with an increasing number of Gulf Coast residents and environmental groups who have called for the government to take over.
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologists recovered two oiled sea turtles approximately 25 miles offshore from Venice, La. Biologists netted a small Kemp's ridley sea turtle and a mature loggerhead sea turtle that were originally spotted in an aerial tour. Scientists patrolling the Grand Isle beaches Friday discovered a deceased northern gannet covered in oil and emulsified tar along the beach. The bird will be tested to determine if its death was caused by oil. In Florida, a brown pelican with oil-covered feathers rescued by Panhandle wildlife officials died.
Construction delays, permitting problems, tropical storms, hurricanes __ Randy Curtis considered each as a possible disruption to the weekend's opening of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City. But it turned out to be something that Curtis never anticipated — an oil spill — that caused the region's tourism-driven economy to sputter. Despite the problems, the airport is on track to open. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Charlie Crist are among the hundreds expected when Southwest Airlines and Delta begin service at the first new international airport to open in the U.S. since the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Tourism-related business in the Destin area are seeking emergency funding to boost advertising because of the massive oil spill. The area's tourist development council plans a special meeting Tuesday to consider spending $500,000 in reserve funds to counter negative publicity generated from the spill. Many hotels, restaurants and other businesses say they are seeing fewer tourists because people fear oil on the beaches. So far, no beaches in Florida have seen oil from the BP spill.