Events May 16, Day 27 of a Gulf of Mexico oil spill that began with an explosion and fire on April 20 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 about 210,000 gallons per day.
CAPPING THE LEAK
Oil company engineers on Sunday finally succeeded in keeping some of the oil gushing from a blown well out of the Gulf of Mexico, hooking up a mile-long tube to funnel the crude into a tanker ship after more than three weeks of failures. Millions of gallons of crude are already in the water, however, and researchers said the black ooze may have entered a major current that could carry it through the Florida Keys and around to the East Coast. BP PLC engineers remotely guiding robot submersibles had worked since Friday to place the tube into a 21-inch pipe nearly a mile below the sea. The oil giant said it will take days to figure out how much oil its contraption is sucking up.
The federal agency responsible for ensuring that the Deepwater Horizon was operating safely before it exploded last month fell well short of its own policy that the rig be inspected at least once per month, an Associated Press investigation shows. In fact, the agency's inspection frequency on the Deepwater Horizon fell dramatically over the past five years, according to federal Minerals Management Service records. The rig blew up April 20, killing 11 people before sinking and triggering a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Since January 2005, inspectors issued just one minor infraction for the rig. That strong track record led the agency last year to herald the Deepwater Horizon as an industry model for safety.
Researchers tracking the spill say computer models show the black ooze may have already entered a major current flowing toward the Florida Keys, and are sending out a research vessel to learn more. William Hogarth, dean of the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science, told The Associated Press Sunday that one model shows that the oil has already the loop current, which is the largest in the Gulf. Hogarth said a second model shows the oil is 3 miles from the current — still dangerously close. The current also loops around to the East Coast.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement that the tube siphoning some of the oil from the well into the tanker is not a solution and it was not clear how successful it will be.
"We will not rest until BP permanently seals the wellhead, the spill is cleaned up, and the communities and natural resources of the Gulf Coast are restored and made whole," the statement said.
Music fans braved a torrential rainstorm in New Orleans for a benefit concert raising money for fishermen affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Lenny Kravitz, John Legend, Ani DiFranco, Allen Toussaint and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, with Mos Def, headlined the "Gulf Aid" concert Sunday. The Gulf Relief Foundation says funds would benefit the region's seafood industry and the restoration of coastal wetlands.
Scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi are heading out to look for bluefin tuna. The Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean are the only places in the world where the species spawn. It is the height of spawning season in the Gulf of Mexico. Jim Franks, who works with the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory's Center for Fisheries Research and Development, said the oil spill has placed the larvae in a precarious position.