What initially seemed to be a victory now has experts concerned about long-term effects of the spill.
By Micah Hanks
By mid afternoon Monday, word had reached most major news sources that leakage of oil into the Gulf of Mexico continues, despite the best efforts of BP and other officials attempting to cap the well head nearly a mile below the ocean’s surface. The failure of the containment effort will no doubt result in an expected fall in morale; however, other factors weighing on the situation point to potential future disaster, with little insight yet into how they should be addressed.
The most recent attempt to contain the leak, using the top flange on the blowout preventer as an attachment point for a special cap, was by far the most successful to-date. Hope remained high until mid afternoon today, when news of oil continuing to leak from at least one area on the ocean floor within two miles of the well itself was confirmed. This was followed by news that the cap at the well head itself was also leaking. To re-fit the cap in a second attempt at containment will likely call for its removal, allowing oil to spew into the Gulf waters for several more days. And yet, as bad as the prospect of more oil being allowed into the ocean may be, deep beneath the ocean more trouble seems to be brewing.
News published at the website of the College of Geosciences reported today that methane levels were a “million times higher than normal,” and that the current levels have previously been seen only “during mass extinction events.” Two articles that discussed the methane problem were linked to the popular new website The Drudge Report, though by 5:00 PM EDST they were inaccessible, presumably either due to surges in web traffic or possible removal. However, it was later revealed that the methane leakage may be occurring naturally, independent from the oil leak at the broken well.
What does all this spell for the continued cleanup effort in the area? At present, an estimated 438 billion gallons of methane has been released into ocean waters, described by some as “a deathblow to life” in the Gulf. Also, recent tests indicating extremely high toxicity levels in ocean water nearby may confirm fears associated with further-reaching damages, suggesting that the lasting effects of the spill may extend far beyond just the areas where oil has surfaced. In truth, the extent of the harm that may incur in the aftermath of this disaster could be unimaginable at present, presenting a force to be reckoned with for months–or even years–to come.
Image by marinephotobank via Flickr.