Oil Leak Update: BP again delays "Top Kill" till Wednesday

Oil Leak Update: BP again delays "Top Kill" till Wednesday

Barataria : LA : USA | May 24, 2010 at 2:47 PM PDT
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As the oil leak disaster in the Gulf continues to grow larger, frustration keeps growing as well. Doug Suttles of BP admits it won't be a modest spill. The EPA had ordered the use of less toxic chemicals, which BP has ignored, and the man in charge of Coast Guard operations is "happy" with BP's response. BP is also putting off till Wednesday the "Top Kill" operation, which has more people mad and BP sounding more and more afraid to do it.

Let's start with BP's Doug Suttles. " Everyone is very very frustrated about why we haven't been able to bring this well to stop flowing so far" , said Suttles. He added that BP has the resources to stop the growing spill. Doug Suttles also said that the operation called "Top Kill" which will use heavy mud and cement to try to stop the leak will not happen until at least Wednesday. Originally it was going to be done last Sunday and changed to Tuesday.

BP's John Curry on why the operation has been delayed again. " Our goal, of course, is to succeed. We want this as much as anyone and our best chance of success is looking like Wednesday morning", said Curry. He said more time is needed to get equipment in place and test it.

After a fly-over of affected areas, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had some tough words for BP. "We are going to stay on this and stay on BP until this gets done and it gets done the right way", said Napolitano. The Homeland Secretary also vowed that the Coast Guard would take greater control of the response to the Gulf disaster and added that "every federal resource that can be deployed is being deployed".

While BP's Doug Suttles sounded like he was apologizing for his 'modest spill" remark, BP continues to use the chemical that the EPA told them to stop using and they said they would. Suttles first: "It won't be very modest. It's not modest today. It's significant today. It's very very, very real to the people who live here. It's very, very real to me and the team who's helping me fight this thing."

If you are counting, that is the third time in this story, so far, that Doug Suttles has said "very, very". While Doug Suttles tries to talk the talk, BP is not walking the walk. BP is still using the banned in the UK chemical dispersant to fight the oil today, despite orders from the EPA to stop using it, and BP this weekend saying that it would stop using it. This chemical is called "Corexit 9500". Besides the fact that less harsh chemicals are available, at least five different kinds, BP's Doug Suttles said that they haven't found another dispersant that is both less toxic and readily available. This contradicts a report over the weekend that says a less harsh chemical IS available and sitting in a warehouse in Houston, Texas. Again, Doug Suttles contradicts that report by saying, " If we can find an alternative that is less toxic and available, we will switch to that product. To date, we've struggled to find an alternative either that had less risk to the environment or that was readily available", said Suttles.

The EPA said that the chemical being used by BP, Corexit 9500, has not been studied enough to know about long term effects. BP told the EPA it would switch to a less harsh chemical, and now they are saying that nothing else is available.

BP is still working on back-up plans if "Top Kill" doesn't work . The backup plan revealed today by Doug Suttles was that BP will try to cap the well with a containment dome. This has failed before. Suttles also said that BP is still considering shooting the "junk shot" which would contain shredded tires, golf balls, and even human hair.

BP also said today that they have spent $760 million so far, and this includes costs of drilling the relief wells to seal the the leak for good. The relief wells will not be ready until August.

Roger Helm is the chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's contaminants division. Helms says the death toll on wildlife has been low because most of the oil remained out in the sea. In contrast, Helms sighted the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 when hundreds of thousands of birds, otters and other animals were killed. Roger Helm added, "But, if the oil does really start fouling up the marshes, you can expect the numbers of oiled birds to go up significantly."

Last week it was reported that 264 birds, sea turtles, and dolphins had been found dead or stranded on the shore. That foul-up of the marshes that Roger Helm spoke of, is already happening. On Barataria Bay, Louisiana, some brown pelicans could only hobble around and they were jet black, covered in oil, as are some pelican eggs. Wildlife officials tried to rescue one of the pelicans and a number of them became scared and spooked. The officials are not sure they will attempt this again.

Also in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal had blasted the Feds about the delay in getting emergency permits so that sand berms can be built. The emergency permits in place, crews have begun work on a chain of berms made with sandbags and reinforced with containment booms, which the Governor had said yesterday were in short supply. "This oil threatens not only our coast and our wetlands, this oil fundamentally threatens our way of life in southeastern Louisiana", said Gov. Jindal.

The threat to wildlife is higher because this is mating season and a lot of wildlife heads into the Gulf. the pelicans, mentioned earlier, are especially vulnerable because they dive into the water to feed. The pelicans also might be feeding tainted fish to their young, and the pelicans could get hypothermia or drown with their oil soaked feathers. These pelicans were just taken off the federal endangered list six months ago.

Reports today are of oil reaching a 1,150 acre oyster ground. Cleanup crews were installing absorbant boom but large clumps of rust-colored oil were still floating in the oyster beds. Fisherman Dave Cvitanovich, who leases the 1,150 acre oyster grounds told the Associated Press that the mature oysters might be able to filter out the oil and become fit for sale, but this year's crop of young oysters will die.

In contrast to what everyone else is saying, Adm. Thad Allen, who President Obama picked to head the Coast Guard oversight of the disaster, is satisfied with BP. Allen said that coordination between BP and the Coast Guard was going well and he does not see the need to take over primary responsibility for the on-going operation from BP. Adm. Allen seems to be the only one happy with BP, although legally as we have learned, the U.S. can't take over the BP operation. As with this entire situation, there are conflicting reports, and viewpoints and there doesn't seem to be a unified opinion about anything.

On one hand we have Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not confident that BP knows what it is doing and is threatening to push BP out of the way if the government doesn't like the way BP is doing this operation. This conflicts with White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs who cites a 1990 law that make it illegal for the federal government to take over an oil company operation during an oil leak disaster. Further confusing the messages coming from the federal government which is conflicting in itself, is Adm. Allen questioning Ken Salazar's threat to push BP aside. Allen wants to know what we would replace BP with.

As the oil leak grows larger, it seems that the words are getting harsher from both sides. BP responded today that it is doing everything possible to stop the leak, but the federal government has ultimate control. My question to BP is, if the fed's have control, why is BP still using a chemical the the government ordered them to stop using?

BP has stated that they are still using the "Corexit 9500" because nothing else is available, at least nearby. That conflicts with a weekend report saying that there is a warehouse full of the safer chemical in Houston, Texas.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is holding to his statements of last week and said again on Sunday that this is BP's show. But, BP's Doug Suttles is saying that the government could be in charge if it wants to be. One person who seems to know he is in charge of something is the mayor of Grand Isle, Louisiana who told the Coast Guard he didn't want unsightly containment booms used around the beach because it would be "unsightly" for beachgoers. Admiral Mary Landry said the Coast Guard has to respect the wishes of local leaders.

Transocean, the company that operated the oil rig is having a memorial service on Tuesday in Jackson, Miss. to honor the eleven men killed aboard the Deepwater Horizon.

Also this evening I learned that BP is cutting back on the toxic chemical, but still using it. Louisiana officials are getting ready to take matters in to their own hands. If BP continues to use this chemical, they will try one of the other ones later this week. The officials contend that besides being toxic, this chemical is not breaking down the oil just pushing it down from the surface so that the leak doesn't look as big when TV crews fly over it with cameras.

There is a feeling among even loyal democrats that President Obama is not handling this disaster the right way. Many are telling the President to demand that BP bring in the other oil companies to help, including drilling the relief wells, to leave BP free to work on the leak and containment.

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Oily water is seen off the side of  the Joe Griffin supply vessel at the site of the Deepwater...
Oily water is seen off the side of the Joe Griffin supply vessel at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, Saturday, May 8, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
RoyEisner is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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