Millions of feet of oil boom pose giant US puzzler
US officials are beginning to address standing down oil clean-up efforts in the Gulf of Mexico in coming weeks, and in particular what to do with millions of feet of boom.
“As the oil starts to dissipate we have other challenges out there we are going to have to address. One of them is ultimately we are going to have to take in all this boom,” said US Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen.
Some 11 million feet of boom has been laid around vulnerable coastlines, including the marshes and wetlands of Louisiana — home to a delicate ecosystem of birds, animals and plantlife.
But with the ruptured BP well capped for the past two weeks, and few signs of oil on the surface of the Gulf, BP and US experts are entering the next phase of a long-term recovery for the ravaged Gulf region.
Allen, the US pointman on the crisis, told reporters that the boom if is no longer needed to hold back the oil, or to help in the current hurricane season, it could in fact begin to pose a danger to the marshes.
“The bottom line is it’s going to be conditions based and when we feel we are ready to remove the boom we will. We don’t want to do it precipitously. We want to make sure we are responding to the threat,” Allen said.
But during a recent storm in the Gulf some of the boom washed into the marshes. “In reality that boom can actually create more mechanical damage in the marsh,” he warned.
At the beginning of the disaster after an April explosion on a BP-leased rig off the Louisiana coast, the United States had to appeal for extra boom as the giant oil slick broke up threatening to wash ashore across miles of coastline.
Now Allen said he had begun planning how to bring in the boom if it is no longer needed, decontaminate it and store it for future use.
US and BP crews would probably need help to scoop up all the boom from the waters, which would give an opportunity to keep employing local boat captains Allen said.
“Some of it we put back into inventory for future responses, and some of it if it is beyond useable life will be actually recycled, because it is plastic and can be recycled.”