A long “tendril” of the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig that exploded last month has entered the Gulf loop current and this could carry the oil to the Florida Keys and even up the Atlantic Coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said today.
Meanwhile even as the spill reached the fragile marshes and wetlands on the Louisiana coast the state’s governor, Bobby Jindal, said, “It is past time to act,” and reportedly rebuked the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard and rig owner British Petroleum for delays in finalising proposals to construct over 80 miles of sand berms along the coastline.
Speaking to reporters Mr. Jindal was quoted to have held up a plastic bag full of sticky brownish liquid, and said, “What we are seeing yesterday and today is literally this heavy oil coming into our wetlands… These are not tar balls, this is not sheen, this is heavy oil.”
NOAA meanwhile said that it had extended the boundaries of the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico into the northern portion of the loop current as a “precautionary measure” to ensure that seafood from the Gulf would remain safe.
In a statement, Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator, said, “The BP oil spill is unprecedented and quickly changing. The administration’s response since the beginning has been aggressive, strategic, and science-based.”
She noted that as NOAA expanded the fishing-closed area, they were doing what science demanded and were acting with caution. NOAA stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Gulf coast fishermen and their families during these challenging times, she added.
Her comments came even as media reports of tensions between the White House and the scientific community over the gulf oil spill heightened, with key oceanography experts faulting the Obama administration for conducting an inadequate scientific analysis of the impact of the spill.
According to a report in the New York Times, scientists were especially concerned about “getting a better handle on problems that may be occurring from large plumes of oil droplets that appear to be spreading beneath the ocean surface”. The report further stated that in the one month since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the government has “failed to make public a single test result on water from the deep ocean”.
Further, it noted that scientists say the administration has been too reluctant to demand an accurate analysis of how many gallons of oil are flowing into the sea from the gushing oil well. The report quoted Sylvia Earle, a reputed oceanographer as saying on Wednesday from Capitol Hill, “It seems baffling that we don’t know how much oil is being spilled… [and] where the oil is in the water column.”