Next Plan of Attack For Oil Spill: Garbage

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An estimated 3.9 million gallons of oil has already spilled into the gulf since the April 20 explosion. Photo: Flickr/jeferonix

After this weekend’s attempt to stop the oil gushing from a broken pipe a mile below the Gulf’s surface failed, the need to develop a new plan became immediately imminent.

The idea was to use a massive steel containment dome to cover the source of the oil, trapping it from flowing further into the gulf, though high pressure and frigid water temperatures caused structural failure.

Though BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles wasn’t ready to admit complete operation failure in a press statement Sunday, he did admit that what was attempted did not work because of hydrates that plugged up the top of the dome.

BP had expected the hydrates, “slush” like crystals formed when gas under the water combine with the cold water, to be a problem, but not at that significant a level.

Engineers are now examining new ways of combating the problem, one of which involves using garbage to clog the failed blowout preventer, the 450-ton, 48-foot-tall device that sits atop the well at the heart of the spill.

That apparatus is designed to stop leaks but hasn’t been working properly since the oil rig explosion on April 20.

Dubbed “the junk shot,” the operation would literally attempt to stuff shut the blowout preventer using garbage.

“The next tactic is going to be something they call a junk shot,” Adm. Thad Allen, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “They’ll take a bunch of debris- shredded up tires, golf balls and things like that- and under very high pressure, shoot it into the preventer itself and see if they can clog it up and stop the leak.”

Though BP does intend to continue modified attempts with the dome, a new plan is quickly demanded as each day represents an additional 210,000 gallons (or 5,000 barrels) of crude oil that enters the Gulf of Mexico. An estimated 3.9 million gallons of oil has already spilled into the gulf since the April 20 explosion.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) experts warned that oil could reach parts of the coast by today, though “tar balls” have already been reported on Dauphin Island, Ala.

The tar balls are being analyzed by scientists to determine whether they are from the oil spill, though scientists believe it is highly likely they are. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the cause of death for oiled birds.

Hundreds of thousands of feet of boom, along with large volumes of dispersants, continue to be utilized to soak up oil headed toward the coastline. Large sandbags are being dropped around areas of Louisiana coastline by helicopter to try and protect the marshes.

Much of the boom is being made from cut human hair and pet fur, organized through Matter of Trust, with more than 500,000 pounds of hair “boom” already at or headed to the gulf.

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