Deepwater Horizon Incident, Gulf of Mexico
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As the nation’s leading scientific resource for oil spills, NOAA has been on the scene of the Deepwater Horizon spill from the start, providing coordinated scientific weather and biological response services to federal, state and local organizations. More
Situation: Friday 30 April
Today the Deepwater Horizon incident declared a Spill of National Significance (SONS). A SONS is defined as, “a spill that, due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response effort, is so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local, and responsible party resources to contain and clean up the discharge” and allows greater federal involvement. Estimates of the release rate increased to 5000 barrels (210,000 gallons) per day based on surface observations and reports of a newly discovered leak in the damaged piping on the sea floor.NOAA is assisting the Unified Command in evaluating a new technique to apply dispersants to oil at the source – 5000’ below the surface, if successful this would keep plumes and sheens from forming. Work continues on a piping system designed to take oil from a collection dome at the sea floor to tankers on the surface; this technique has never been tried at 5000’. Drilling of a relief or cut-off well is still planned, but will not be complete for several months.
Dispersants are still being aggressively applied. Over 100,000 gallons have been applied. The test burn late yesterday was successful and approximately 100 barrels of oil were burned in about 45 minutes. Additional efforts are planned contingent on good weather.
With shore impacts looming, sensitive shorelines are being pre-boomed. Over 180,000 feet of boom have been deployed, and another 300,000 feet are forward staged. NOAA efforts have included: getting pre-impact samples surveys and baseline measurements, planning for open water and shoreline remediation, modeling the trajectory and extent of the oil, supporting the Unified Command as it analyzes new techniques for handling the spill. Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) activities are also underway.
- Forecasts indicate persistent winds from the southeast through the weekend which will push surface oil towards shore
- The State of Louisiana allowed shrimpers to start an early season today to get ahead of oil impacts
- NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division (ARD) is evaluating concerns about potential injuries of oil and dispersants to fishes, human use of fisheries, marine mammals, turtles, and sensitive resources
- ARD is coordinating with Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama to evaluate plankton and trawl sampling efforts.
- Baseline aerial surveys to assess marine life were conducted today with personnel from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), these will continue as needed.