Oil Spill Update: Relief Well Close to Completion, Fledglings Found Greased, Crude Contaminates Midwest

Crewmembers aboard the 210-foot Coast Guard Cutter Decisive observe the lights from the drilling rigs and support ships near the sight of the Deepwater Horizon well about two miles away. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Nearly four months after the Deepwater Horizon offshore drill rig exploded and three weeks after BP effectively capped the gusher, officials are reporting that they’re close to permanently plugging the Macondo well, yet the effects of the spill, and the larger problems associated with oil leaking into the environment, are still surfacing. 
Relief Well Nearly Finished
A well that was drilled to intercept the well that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico is less than 50 feet away from being finished, officials reported this week.
“They’re closing in on the last, I’d say, 30 or 40 feet at this point,” Thad W. Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who heads the response effort, told reporters Monday, a New York Times article reads. “But it’s very, very slow because they have to be very exact.”
It’s unlikely that the crews will hit the target on the first try. When drilling a relief well off the coast of Australia last year, they had to try five separate times before succeeding.
Oiled Fledglings Found
Despite reports that the amount of oil the gulf is decreasing, the number of oiled birds found daily has increased since BP capped the well, according to the Times-Picayune.
“Before BP plugged the well with a temporary cap on July 15, an average of 37 oiled birds were being collected dead or alive each day. Since then, the figure has nearly doubled to 71 per day, according to a Times-Picayune review of daily wildlife rescue reports,” the article states.
There are a couple of reasons for the rise in affected birds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say: the amount of time it took for oil to get to coastal marshes, where a number of birds nest, and the number of birds that are just beginning to fly.
"We're seeing more juvenile birds getting oiled as they're trying out their wings," said Charlie Hebert, a deputy wildlife branch director for the Fish and Wildlife Service, in the article.
Herbert doesn’t expect the number to stay high, he said. Still, “Rescuers are in a race against the clock as the percentage of oiled birds recovered alive has dropped from 56 percent before the well was capped to 41 percent now,” the story stated.
Midwest Oil Spill One of the Largest in the Region
When an underground pipeline carrying crude from Canada to the U.S. ruptured nearly two weeks ago, the responsible company, Calgary-based Enbridge Energy Partners, quickly shut down the flow and patched the break, but not before more than a million gallons coated the shores of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, making it one of the largest spills ever to occur in the area.
“The Kalamazoo River disaster is historic in its own right, even if it only registers a blip on the nation's radar, according to several officials at the center of the cleanup,” The Toledo Blade reports. “Susan Hedman, who became administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes regional office in Chicago on Earth Day, 2010, told The Blade that the spill could be the largest in this part of the country in decades, possibly ever. She said people who have been at the agency much longer than she are not aware of a larger one on record in the Great Lakes region.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulators warned the company earlier this year of potential problems with the pipeline, one of just many notifications it sent the business over the last eight years. According to The Wall Street Journal: “Since 2002, Enbridge has received more than a dozen warnings or citations for violating safety and other standards and fined tens of thousands of dollars as a result, according to a review of correspondence maintained by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.”


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