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article imageMore oil sheens found in Gulf near BP's Macondo well

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 2, 2011 in Environment
New Orleans - After informing the world last year it had finally controlled the massive flow of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico from its ill-fated Macondo well, there is now so much oil in the well site area it’s being called an “expansive surface sheen.”
After spewing oil for 87 straight days last year at the Macondo well, thanks to mismanagement and greed, a deadly combination which claimed 11 lives, recent sightings of oil near BP’s well site are creating a growing sense of alarm.
Stuart Smith, an environmental attorney based in New Orleans, wrote this week that
scientific analysis has confirmed that oil is again rising from the site where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank to the seafloor in April of last year.
Although BP and the US Coast Guard have been confronted with “an overwhelming body of evidence” that the oil now in the Gulf is coming from Macondo, Smith states the two entities not only continue denying the well is leaking, but also claim there is no oil in the vicinity of the well site.
In an August 26 press release, BP states it has confirmed, “through a standard visual wellhead inspection,” there is no oil escaping from the MC252 (Macondo) well, where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank
The controversial oil giant also claims it conducted a visual inspection of the Macondo relief well, “confirming the same result.”
However, the not-for-profit On Wings of Care (OWC), an ocean conservation and rescue organization, notes that in a flight conducted this week searching for whale sharks to be tagged by scientists on a boat, the crew found
what we are so very tired of seeing -- more and more OIL.
The group said it had not seen such an “expansive surface sheen” since last summer during the catastrophic oil discharge at the Macondo well, the worst environmental disaster in US history.
OWC said the sheen stretched for miles. Also at odds with the USCG and BP are reports from the Press-Register, calling the oil bubbling up from the Deepwater Horizon site “a chemical match” for the tens of thousands of barrels of oil which contaminated the Gulf and coastal areas from Texas to Florida.
Samples of oil were collected last week by the Press-Register and delivered to a pair of chemists at Louisiana State University. Ed Overton, one of the chemists, said: “After examining the data, I think it’s a dead ringer for the MC252 oil, as good a match as I’ve seen,” in an email to the Press-Register. “My guess is that it is probably coming from the broken riser pipe or sunken platform. ... However, it should be confirmed, just to make sure there is no leak from the plugged well.”
BP responded it had a vessel at the site all day last Thursday, yet never saw any oil. The USGC also had a helicopter overhead and a boat at the site, and saw no oil. “If it is a natural seepage, or a burp out of the wreckage down below, that would explain why we had something two days ago and not today,” said Capt. Jonathan Burton, of the USGC, the Press-Register reports. He speculates wind and sea conditions may have hidden the oil during inspections.
In her flight over the area on August 30, Bonny Schumaker, president and pilot of OWC, said: “we saw the slick cover roughly 10 miles [16km] in one direction and four miles [6km] in another,” according to Al Jazeera English.
Fresh oil has been washing ashore in many areas which took a direct hit from last year’s disaster, including the Chandeleur Islands, Ship Island, Breton Island and the north part of Barataria Bay, Louisiana. AJE reports BP has reactivated clean-up operations with its Vessels of Opportunity program.
Some suggest the oil is coming from natural seeps, which always occur in the Gulf. Others note oil could be leaking from the broken riser pipe, still on the ocean floor, which connected the Deepwater Horizon rig to the well.
Another possibility, the most serious, is oil could be leaking at the seafloor beneath the capped wellhead, making it impossible to control.
Smith, the Louisiana attorney, noted
Of course, we’ve heard denials before – early and often – so we shouldn’t put any stock in this new round of refutations. We should also note that BP officials left themselves a little wiggle room (as is usually the case) by stating there was no release from the Macondo Well while saying nothing about leaks from the seafloor around the wellhead – a “scenario of interest” that we’ve been looking at for some time.
Smith added the “fresh oil” timeline appears to have begun as early as last March.
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