By Ian Graham
UPDATE — April 29: This morning, BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said on the Today show that as much as 5,000 barrels of oil are leaking into the Gulf of Mexico each day (not the previously estimated 1,000 barrels daily). A new leak was found in underwater pipelines during a test burn on the spill.
As oil continues to spread from the site of last week’s Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the government and the commercial parties involved are continuing their efforts to contain and disperse the spill.
On Wednesday, the unified response group put into effect a plan to burn oil out of the water, though they were delayed initially by weather conditions at sea.
According to a press release, the burn process is as follows:
“Workboats will consolidate oil into a fire resistant boom approximately 500 feet long. This oil will then be towed to a more remote area, where it will be ignited and burned in a controlled manner. The plan calls for small, controlled burns of several thousand gallons of oil lasting approximately one hour each.”
BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said his company’s plan to create a diversionary system at the leak’s source is still underway. A containment chamber has been fabricated, but it could be two to four weeks before the necessary equipment to pump oil from the containment chamber is designed and built.
Suttles reported about 4,000 barrels of oily water were gathered Tuesday — about half of the total volume of oily water cleared from the spill.
The oil slick is still about 20 miles away from the Louisiana coast, and landfall is expected as early as Friday night in Louisiana. Alabama and Mississippi could have oil reaching their shores before the weekend ends. The response group, led by Rear Adm. Mary Landry, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Eighth District, is coordinating with each state to make sure they can prevent a potentially disastrous landfall.
“It’s premature to say this spill is catastrophic,” Landry said. “But I will say it’s very serious.”
Click here for a diagram of where the oil has spread as of Wednesday.