As five separate crisis teams, comprised of BP employees, federal officials and even some of BP’s competitors, work feverishly in training rooms at BP’s Houston office, the Deepwater Horizon wellhead continues to spew up to 200,000 gallons of oil a day into the muddy waters of the Gulf of Mexico. With the fishing industry in the Gulf at a standstill from Texas to Pensacola, Florida, and dead marine life washing up on the shores of Louisiana and Mississippi, the effects of the massive explosion that killed eleven men are just beginning to be realized.
There is still no answer as to why the blowout preventer did not close, preventing the oil from leaking from the wellhead. Crisis teams are trying several different approaches to contain the spill, from injecting dispersants into the sea floor, to trying to close the malfunctioning blowout preventer, to drilling two relief wells.
Environmental Policy Expert, Richard Charter, says that an acoustic switch, which was not installed on the Deepwater Horizon, could have prevented the spill even after the blowout preventer failed to cap the flow. The $500,000 piece of back up equipment has the ability to shut down the well remotely, even if the well is damaged or evacuated. The acoustic switch is not required by US law. Rigs in other countries are required to have one. BP’s response to the acoustic switch is that they don’t have the same good track record as the submersibles, which are now in use.
With damage estimates looming as large, or even larger, than that of the Exxon Valdez disaster, crews are scrambling to protect oyster beds and marshland, but placing booms to keep the oil from reaching the shore admittedly is a meager effort. Disaster teams are working 24 hours a day to find solutions to problems that are increasing in scope with each passing day.