It has been 16 days since the 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. The slick threatens the U.S. coastline.
One oil leak capped
The Coast Guard says BP PLC has managed to cap one of three leaks at a deepwater oil well. That's not expected to reduce the overall flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, but does make it possible to drop a single containment box on the breach, rather than needing two or three.
Spill nears land and loop current
Two satellite images taken Wednesday morning indicate that oil has reached the Mississippi Delta and the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of Louisiana, an imaging expert says. It's not clear from the radar images whether the oil has reached the shore, but "it's certainly very close," said Hans Graber, director of the University of Miami's satellite sensing facility.
He said the images also show oil drifting to the south, toward the Loop Current, which could carry oil toward Florida and the Florida Keys. Boats remained at the Chandeleur Island chain because officials got a report of oil coming ashore there, but their crews had not seen any.
"They're sitting there, basically, waiting for the first signs of any kind of a sheen to touch the islands," said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. James McKnight.
Oil cean-up efforts underway
A 100-ton contraption to funnel oil spewing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico into a drilling ship has been loaded onto a barge for its journey to the leak site 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. BP spokesman John Curry said it would be on the seabed by Thursday and hooked up to a drill ship over the weekend.
Officials announce a second burn planned Wednesday on the Gulf of Mexico. Shrimpers were trained earlier in the week to tow fireproof boom to corral oil for such burns.
In Plaquemines Parish, near Louisiana's southern tip, crews load absorbent boom onto a barge to be used as a distribution point for local fishermen and shrimpers to lay the boom around sensitive marshes at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Hundreds of black garbage bags dot beaches between Biloxi and Gulfport as crews shovel up and bag debris that has washed ashore, to make the cleanup easier if oil does come ashore.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has scheduled a May 11 hearing to examine the spill's impact on the economy and environment. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (May 11) and the House Energy and Commerce Committee (May 12) also plan hearings on the spill next week.
The House Natural Resources Committee has a May 26 hearing. The Senate Commerce Committee will also hold a hearing, but no date has been set.
The oil spill and wildlife
Federal fisheries officials investigate whether aggressive shrimpers are drowning endangered sea turtles that have been washing up on Gulf Coast beaches with no signs of oil. Shrimp nets are required to include escape hatches for sea turtles.
Sheryan Epperly, sea turtle team leader for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said investigators will look at whether some shrimp boats taking part in an emergency shrimping season because of the spill removed those devices from their nets.
Wildlife officials say at least 35 endangered sea turtles have washed up on Gulf Coast beaches, but it's not clear what's killing them. Necropsies have shown no signs of oil. So far, only two birds have been brought to a rescue center. Both are recovering.