UPDATE The static kill is being declared a success but that doesn't mean you should think things are all peachy clean on the Bayou. Yes, the natural warm and fertile waters of the Gulf of Mexico have helped more than anyone expected but 644 miles of shoreline remain impacted with oil. The impact of the 1.84 million gallons of dispersant used is still largely unknown.
This is far from over.
At 2:05pm BP began the tests for the procedure known as static kill on the damaged Macondo well and if all goes well the static kill could begin later tonight. If static kill is a success there will be no need to use the relief wells because the well will be dead. The static kill is similar to the top kill procedure that failed in early June. The likelihood of success for this procedure is much higher than previous attempts to because the well is capped and the pressure in the well is stable. It is really possible that in the next few days we could be seeing the end of the threat posed by the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
So assuming all goes according to plan what happens after the well is killed?
Despite the silly nonsense being spouted by some that this spill "wasn't that bad," the clean up efforts will go on for years. The short term cleanup of actual oil and sludge on the shoreline is likely to continue until at least December. There are some areas where it will be impractical to physically enter and remove the oil. The potential damage caused by trampling through marshes with half-tracks and other equipment just isn't justifiable. You're really left with three options for short term cleaning in the marshes and sensitive wetlands: leave them alone, burn them, or flood them.
The long term cleanup will go on for decades. It is likely beaches will need sand sifting every so often. This involves bringing in large scale machines that will dig up the beach and dump the sand into a giant sifting machine similar to one you'd find at an aggregate plant. This method was used on beaches in Buzzards Bay for years after the spill and achieved decent results. The oil spilled in Buzzards Bay was heavy oil known as No. 6 oil and will traces of it will remain on the South Coast longer than the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico.
Nobody really knows what will happen with the massive amount of dispersant used on the spill. Long term monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico will give us a better idea of the impacts of their usage and what damage they will cause. Some tests results of water in the Mobile Bay area were troubling. One test case exploded indicating off-the-charts contamination. The oil has broken down into such microscopic pieces that is almost impossible to see it with a naked eye.
It is true that short term damage to wildlife in the Gulf was not nearly as bad as the damage caused to wildlife in Prince William Sound in 1989 but that is only in the short term. This oil spill, although much lighter and higher in quality, was spread over a massive area and originated a mile below the surface. Again, it is simply too early to tell the long term impacts on the Gulf of Mexico. Everybody is very fortunate that the oil spilled was Louisiana sweet crude and not heavy crude oil. The type of oil spilled makes a huge a difference in clean up efforts and environmental damage.
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