Is There Any Hope for Oil Spill Clean-Up?

The process could take years

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Forty-six days later, the oil spill is still spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on whose estimate you trust, somewhere between 22 million and 200 million gallons of oil are now in the water. How bad is this spill and what can we expect from the clean-up and containment efforts currently underway?

  • Containment Cap Is Diverting Some Oil  The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton reports: "BP executives said that their efforts to capture the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico have begun to work and that a containment cap placed over the damaged well Thursday night sucked up about 441,000 gallons of oil--on Saturday, up from around 250,000 gallons on Friday. That oil was diverted to a waiting ship."
  • Obama Administration Taking Charge  The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty and Juliet Eilperin write: "For weeks, federal officials had stood alongside BP executives at the briefings, reinforcing doubts about who was really in charge and putting the government in the position of vouching, by its mere presence, for BP's veracity. No longer. The White House informed BP that it was putting an end to the joint appearances. The administration is now scrambling to reclaim control, the appearance and the reality of it, over a situation that defies both."
  • ...But Americans Still Skeptical  "Sixty-nine percent of Americans say the federal government's response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is not so good or poor," Politics Daily's Bruce Drake writes--"a higher percent than the 62 percent who gave Washington negative remarks in 2005 for its handling of the Katrina aftermath, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted June 3-6. BP, which operating the rig the drilled the blown-out well, gets even worse marks, with 81 percent panning its response."
  • Clean-Up Will Take Years, the New York Times' Joseph Berger explains. "Although the Coast Guard had trained for the possibility of cleaning up a disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it had never anticipated that oil would spread across such a broad area and break up into hundreds of thousands of patches as the current spill has done ... it would take years to mitigate the impact of the spill on the marshes, beaches and wildlife on the Gulf Coast ... the big problem the Coast Guard is facing is the intricacy of cleaning up oil that has broken into so many patches across the surface of the sea and spreading out in so many different directions. That will require many more vessels armed with skimmers and more booms to block the oil from reaching the shore."
  • Damage Could Last 'Decades'  The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach and David Brown bring the worst news by far. "The spill will have ripple effects far into the future, scientists warn," but those effects are largely unknown. For comparison: "The Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons killed as many as 700,000 sea birds and 5,000 sea otters initially, but even 21 years later, populations of sea otters in areas of Prince William Sound haven't recovered. The Pacific herring population collapsed after the spill for reasons that remain in dispute among scientists. Two intensely studied pods of killer whales in the sound suffered heavy losses in the spill and have struggled since. One of the two pods has no more reproductive females. It is doomed to extinction."
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