An Unfolding Disaster

Deepwater Crisis: A Chronology of Key Events

Even though it’s been more than five months since authorities capped the ruptured pipes that were spewing thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf, the situation hasn’t been entirely resolved. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s January 2011 reports show that more than 6,000 birds, 600 sea turtles, and 100 mammals were found dead in the vicinity of the oil spill (FWS 2011). And that, perhaps, is only the beginning. Scientists expect to continue seeing the impact of the incident on wildlife and its habitat for several years to come. Meanwhile research on the incident, efforts to protect wildlife and habitat in the region, and measures to help stave off similar crises in the future are ongoing. And although we’ve wrapped up our daily and weekly coverage of one of the worst environmental disasters of our time, we’ll continue to monitor the situation in the region, and keep you posted.
 

Days 258-265 Week of December 26  
 
Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, the Audubon Nature Institute and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are all seeking funding to establish permanent wildlife rehabilitation centers in the Gulf to quickly and effectively treat injured wildlife should another environmental disaster ever occur in the region. LSU’s proposal seeks to expand its wildlife hospital and to create an oiled bird response warehouse equipped to treat birds damaged by minor oil spills and environmental disasters including hurricanes. Audubon’s Aquatic Center also wants to expand its rehabilitation center and research program as well as its bird reproduction research center. Additionally, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries hopes to establish a permanent recovery and research center located in Grand Isle, LA that would act as a command and triage center in case of an emergency. The new center would also oversee restoration work on barrier island chains, active deltas, and marshes throughout the state. Meanwhile, cleanup and restoration efforts are still underway along 113 miles of Louisiana’s coastline in order to remove as much remaining oil as possible before migratory birds arrive there at the end of February. Even now, cleanup crews still report regular oilings in Jefferson and Plaquemines Parish, including areas in Barataria Bay, where marshes still remain heavily oiled. Tar balls also continue to wash ashore from oil mats located in the surf near several beaches in Pensacola, FL, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores, A, as well as barrier islands off of the Mississippi coast. Read more here and here
 
Days 250-257 Week of December 19 
 
Boom used during the Deepwater Disaster finds a new purpose as parts in General Motor’s Chevrolet Volt electric car. Over 2,550 miles of boom was used in the Gulf to prevent oil from reaching the shoreline, and now, it will be recycled into parts used to deflect air around the car’s radiator. In other news, Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, strongly urges the federal government to delay examination of the blowout preventer belonging to the Deepwater Horizon rig, stating that efforts to determine what caused the rig’s explosion as well as the failure of the blowout preventer were compromised by Transocean and Cameron’s involvement in the examination. Transocean, which owned the Deepwater Horizon rig, and Cameron, which produced the blowout preventer, will be affected by the outcome of the investigation, and their involvement is a conflict of interest, Moure-Eraso says. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, because the companies’ participation in the investigation is solely to answer any technical questions related to the rig, their involvement will not undermine the credibility of any testing. Read more here and here.
 
Days 242-249 Week of December 13 
 
The U.S. government recently announced plans to sue BP, Transocean, and seven other companies involved with the spill, under the U.S. Clean Water Act and Oil Protection Act, for violating environmental laws, failing to keep the well under control, neglecting to monitor the well’s condition and safety, and neglecting to protect its employees and the environment from potential risks. So far, BP has already paid $30 billion in damages, and if the suit is successful, the company could face an additional $20 billion in fines. Penalties under the Clean Water Act can range from $1,100 per barrel of oil spilled, up to $4,300 per barrel. In other news, approximately 50 sea turtles continue to be treated at animal rehabilitation and rescue centers along the Gulf Coast. The Audubon Aquatics Center in New Orleans has 30 of them, including 16 green, 11 Kemp’s Ridley, one hawksbill, and one loggerhead turtle. The Institute of Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport, Mississippi holds an additional 16 sea turtles, and four turtles remain at centers in Panama City and Orlando, Florida. Read more here and here.

Days 234-241 Week of December 6

Results from acoustic survey equipment placed just nine miles away from the Deepwater spill site point to some reassuring news about the fate of sperm whales. For almost a decade, scientists recorded evidence of about five sperm whales living in areas surrounding the BP oil rig, however, after the spill they recognized sounds from only two whales living in the region. At another listening site about 15 miles away from the wellhead, the average number of sperm whales recorded hasn’t changed since the spill, leading scientists to believe that the presence of oil as well as outside noises as a result of recovery and restoration efforts caused the sperm whales in the area to move to safer waters. Meanwhile, recent findings from a team of scientists from the University of South Florida and the federal government suggest greater amounts of oil on the Gulf’s seafloor than previously expected, and reveal layers of oily residue up to several centimeters thick that span several thousands of square miles across the ocean floor. The latest evidence raises new concerns about the effectiveness of the dispersants that were used to break up oil on the water’s surface, as it appears that the use of the chemicals may have exacerbated the amount of oil that sunk onto the ocean floor. In other news, a senior unit manager for Halliburton’s Sperry subsidiary recently testified before a federal investigative panel stating that he missed critical warning signs that the Macondo well was heading toward an explosion, because he was taking a quick smoke break. Joseph E. Keith, who survived the explosion, said he left his station for about 10 minutes, missing crucial pressure data on his monitors that signaled that the well was filling up with combustible natural gas. By the time he returned, he said that the monitors had returned to normal, preventing him from warning fellow workers of any impending dangers. Read more here, here, and here.

Days 226-233 Week of November 29

The Obama administration reversed its offshore oil drilling policy, announcing that it will not allow drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic coast through 2017. The decision, made so that the administration can properly assess an environmental analysis from the Deepwater Disaster, is a far cry from previous policies made in March, in which the administration announced that it would examine the possibility of drilling along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Florida, and in areas in the eastern Gulf and in Alaska. The presidential panel in charge of investigating the Deepwater Disaster may recommend new means for both the federal government and the oil industry to oversee offshore drilling on rigs that remain active across the nation, as well as develop a safety institute to address the miscalculations that led to the spill. In other news, scientists and volunteers relocated over 14,000 sea turtles into the Atlantic Ocean—saving them from an oily fate in the Gulf—but their whereabouts remain unknown. The decision not to notch the eggs prohibits the ability to study what effects, if any, the move had on migration, and how many of the rescued turtles survived. Read more here, here, and here

Days 218-225 Week of November 22

A new report released by NOAA claims that chemical dispersants broke up more oil from the Deepwater Disaster than originally estimated. The report, titled the Oil Budget Calculator, finds that of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil released into the Gulf, approximately 77 percent of it was directly recovered, burned off, skimmed, dispersed, evaporated or dissolved; a figure three percent higher than government estimates in August. The report also increases the amount of oil classified as “chemically dispersed” to 16 percent; double the amount estimated in August. After a commercial shrimper discovered tar balls in the nets of a catch of royal red shrimp, NOAA closed 4,213 square miles of Gulf waters to royal red shrimping off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. As opposed to more common Gulf shrimp species which are caught in waters less than 300 feet deep, royal red shrimp are fished at depths of 600 feet and greater by pulling nets across the ocean floor—making it possible for tar balls to get picked up along the way. Meanwhile, the negation of lump-sum final settlements by BP to compensate victims of the Deepwater disaster is set to begin. The final settlement program, which will run for three years, requires anyone accepting a settlement to give up their right to file future claims against BP or any other companies involved in the disaster, and allows people to continue to receive money while considering a final settlement. It also offers an appeals process for anyone unhappy with their settlement offer.Read more here, here, and here.

Days 220-217 Week of November 15

A new report released by the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council claims that crew members responsible for drilling the BP Macondo well neglected many crucial signs of an impending explosion aboard the rig. The report found that the crew rushed through the temporary abandonment period—a critical step where a temporary cap must be installed on a newly tapped well—during which time the Macondo well exploded. In other news, BP launched a campaign to deep-clean some of the hardest-hit tourist beaches from the spill. Bulldozers and machines resembling agricultural harvesters are digging up to 30 inches underneath the sand, searching for tar balls. BP is also pumping salt water onto some beaches to help rinse away remaining oil residues and to speed up the bleaching process. However, some environmentalists fear that the heavy machinery will kill creatures, like ghost crabs, that live in the sand, and worry that the cleaning process could cause the beaches to erode. BP claims that the work should be completed by mid-February and that the deep-clean should remove 99 percent of the remaining oil residue and tar balls—a weighty promise for many, as tourism resumes again in the spring. On Monday, more than 8,000 square miles of Gulf waters were reopened for fishing, leaving less than 1 percent of waters closed, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Read more here, here, and here.

 Days 212-219 Week of November 08

The Environmental Protection Agency announces that two types of cancer-causing compounds—polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans—released from offshore oil burning after the Deepwater disaster pose little long-term risks of cancer to those exposed to them. According to the study, for onshore residents who inhaled the fumes, the risk of caner is six additional cases for every one trillion people. For those who ate fish exposed to the fumes as well as workers who inhaled the fumes, the risk is an additional six cases for every 100 million. For children, whose fish consumption is a greater portion of their body weight and Gulf Coast residents who are considered “subsistence populations” (eating as much as nearly a pound of seafood a day), the risk increases to two additional cases in 10 million people. Meanwhile, a recent report issued by the Interior Department’s inspector general claims that the White House misrepresented data and misconstrued expert opinion by editing a safety report in a way that made it appear that the six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling had been peer-reviewed, when, in fact, scientists were asked to only review new safety measures for offshore drilling. The White House maintains that the review was conducted ethically and appropriately. Since the moratorium was lifted in mid-October, the government hasn’t issued any new drilling permits for wells in the Gulf. Analysts hope to see a few permits approved by the end of the year, but most predict that permits will be slow in coming through 2011. Read more here, here, and here

Days 204-211 Week of November 01 

According to scientists at Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab , more bacteria than was originally predicted fed on much of the 200 million gallons of oil released from the BP Macondo well. The study, conducted between June and mid-August,  revealed  that larger plankton organisms contained a greater percentage of a lighter isotope of carbon than a heavier isotope—a sign that the smaller organisms they feed on contained carbon from oil. Scientists note that oil from the Deepwater disaster made its way up the food chain from miniscule bacteria, to tiny crustaceans like copepods, to larger zooplankton, which are eaten by sea creatures including crabs and whales. Another team of scientists aboard a NOAA-sponsored expedition in the Gulf report signs of a massive deepwater coral graveyard located seven miles southwest of the spill site. The findings, which scientists claim are unlike anything they have ever seen before, show that 90 percent of 40 large corals in at least 30 colonies were heavily affected by the spill. A large-scale coral death could take years, maybe decades, to grow back, because of cold temperatures on the Gulf floor. NOAA and the FDA also recently announced that Gulf seafood is safe from dispersant contamination. Of 1,735 samples of fish, shrimp, oysters and crabs tested by experts, 13 contained trace amounts of dispersant, and all at levels safe for human consumption. Many fishermen, however, remain skeptical about the testing, with fears that an accidental batch of tainted seafood could be even more injuring to an already damaged industry. Read more here , here , and here.

 Days 196-203 Week of October 25

 A presidential commission on the Deepwater disaster prompts new questions concerning the safety of the foamy cement mixture that was intended to temporarily seal the BP Macondo well in the Gulf. Halliburton reveals that the final version of the cement did not endure a foam-stability test before it was pumped into the well. The commission reports that the cement repeatedly failed lab tests which suggested that the mixture would be unstable when used. However, Halliburton only notified BP about one of the tests, and the cement, which was intended to provide a seal at the bottom of the well, was used regardless. BP’s well design may still have contributed to the explosion, though, the commission reports, as the use of long, steel casing may have been a factor in the elevated pressure levels between the pipes and sides of the well. The well design, paired with Halliburton’s faulty cement, created what some experts call, “a recipe for disaster.” Meanwhile, the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife concludes that a miles-wide, red swath off of the Mississippi River delta is algae, not oil. Concerned fishers and boaters began reporting the area last week with fears that the patch smelled and looked like residual oil from the spill. Although large algal blooms are not unusual during this time along the Louisiana coast, scientists are running further tests to determine whether any oil has been accumulated or absorbed by the algae. Read more here and here.

Days 188-195 Week of October 18 

Scientists released 33 sea turtles, including green, Kemp's ridley, hawksbill, and loggerheads, off the shores of Louisiana, marking the first time that rehabilitated sea turtles were released close to the original location that they were found. Rescue personnel chose Grand Isle, Louisiana as the release site, because of its oil-free sargassum algae mats, which serve as critical turtle habitat. Since the Deepwater disaster in April, rescue personnel have released more than 270 turtles into the Gulf. Additionally, corals only 20 miles north of the well site appear to be healthy and thriving. Researchers aboard a Greenpeace ship stationed in the Gulf report that they have yet to see any large-scale damage to the cold-water reefs—a reassuring find, as corals are currently spawning in the Gulf. Although the government maintains that much of the oil is gone, some studies claim that the sea floor still holds significant amounts of oil, which could alter the reproduction rates of future corals. Over the next few weeks, research will continue to assess how the reproductive rates of coral may be impacted for years to come. Meanwhile, federal officials are attempting to tackle the largest environmental analysis ever seen, as they prepare to send a Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) to BP and other companies responsible for the Deepwater disaster. Federal law designates that any person or business that despoils a wetland or protected habitat must not only compensate the U.S. for the loss of its use while it was damaged, but must also restore it to its original condition.  While continuing to document widespread damage caused by the rupture, scientists are faced with a new conundrum: How does one put a price tag on dead or oiled wildlife? Read more here, here, and here.

Days 180-187 Week of October 11

 The deepwater drilling moratorium is now officially over, ending more than a month before its November 30 deadline. Drilling will most likely resume by the end of the year, but with stricter regulations in place. Rig operators are now required to have an independent third party inspect the safety of all blowout preventers, which in the case of the Deepwater Disaster, failed to shut off and prevent oil from gushing into the Gulf. Operators will also have to obey new well design and well casing design standards, which are required to be certified by a professional engineer before any new drilling begins. Although oil still remains a threat to birds in the Gulf, the National Audubon Society reports that bird populations are doing surprisingly well. In September, experts counted approximately 10,000 birds along Louisiana’s marshy and sandy coast. They spotted lots of young brown pelicans (Louisiana’s state bird), and found only three oiled birds as well—a reassuring sign that populations are rebounding. Oil remains beneath the sand, however, and tarballs and other oily debris continue to wash ashore from tidal flats. According to official counts, more than 6,000 birds have been found dead since the spill began in April, and more than 2,000 oiled live birds were collected and cleaned. Meanwhile scientists continue to monitor two dead zones located just off of Louisiana’s coast, including one in Chandeleur Sound, an area hit hardest by the spill. While they originally feared that the oil spill would create massive dead zones in the Gulf, it appears that the two zones have been made larger because of the spill, not caused by it. For more than 20 years, scientists have been monitoring a dead zone that spans from Texas to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Because of the spill, the size of the dead zone has set records this year, although it would have been even larger if Tropical Strom Bonnie hadn’t churned up Gulf waters in July, helping to spread oxygen around. Read more here, here, and here

Days 172-179 Week of October 4

A working paper released from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling criticizes the Obama administration for its response to the spill, accusing the administration of substantially underestimating the amount of oil that poured into the Gulf after the rig exploded despite research proving otherwise, as well as preventing the public from hearing about the higher worst-case oil estimates.  The paper also criticizes the White House for publicly announcing that 75 percent of the oil had been burned, dispersed, or collected when methods to gauge this figure were not scientifically peer-reviewed. Although the government acknowledges that it misinterpreted spill estimates, it claims that it made all available information regarding the oil spill public. According to Louisiana state officials, oil along Louisiana's Gulf Coast barrier islands continues to threaten critical interior wetlands, fisheries, and wildlife habitat, making continued sand berm construction necessary to protect those areas. Federal agencies, independent scientists and environmental groups, however, have complained to the Army Corps of Engineers, claiming that sand berm construction threatens endangered sea turtles and other wildlife. Despite these claims, Louisiana officials insist that millions of barrels of oil still exist in the Gulf that could destroy vast expanses of precious ecosystem. Meanwhile, 90 percent of federal Gulf waters are now open for fishing. This week, NOAA opened nearly 3,000 square miles of waters off eastern Louisiana for commercial and recreational fishing; the eighth reopening since July 22. There are still approximately 23,000 square miles of federal waters that have yet to be reopened. Read more here, here, and here.

 Days 164-171 Week of September 27

Researchers from Oregon State University report heightened levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)--which include carcinogens and other dangerous chemicals linked to cancer--in the waters off the coast of Louisiana, at levels 40 times greater than before the spill occurred. Scientists, fearing that the compounds could enter the food chain through plankton or fish, will continue to sample Gulf waters for traces of PAHs in the months ahead. Louisiana’s oysters continue to suffer due to the spill and resulting cleanup efforts. In attempts to keep oil out of crucial interior marshes, many of the state’s river diversions were opened; however, the influx of fresh water damaged many private oyster leases in the process. Of the entire Gulf seafood industry, oysters have been the most affected by the spill. To help their recovery in Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal initiated the Governor’s Oyster Advisory Committee, a 15-person committee that will address how the struggling oyster industry can co-exist with coastal restoration projects, including fresh water diversions. The Department of the Interior is also one step closer to lifting its ban on offshore drilling. Two new rules on offshore drilling aim to improve the safety of deepwater oil and gas drilling practices. The “drilling safety rule” tightens standards for the use of drilling fluids, well-bore casting, and cementing in an exploratory well, as well as specifies requirements to improve the efficacy of blow-out preventers. The “workplace safety rule” requires companies to determine specific response plans for all of their worst-case scenarios. Read more here, here, and here.

Days 156-163: Week of september 20 

The Horizon Deepwater oil rig is officially declared dead after the bottom-kill procedure is successfully completed. As of September 17, the cost of the spill totals around $9.5 billion, which includes efforts to contain oil, drilling the relief well, executing the static kill and cementing procedures, grants and claims paid to states in the Gulf, and other federal costs. Meanwhile, NOAA reopened nearly 8,000 square miles of Gulf waters for fishing. The area, which spans from Central Louisiana to the western edge of the Florida panhandle, is an important area for fishermen who target tuna and billfish. No signs of oil or sheen have been documented in the area since July 21, but NOAA will continue testing fish for traces of oil in the newly reopened area. Over 80 percent of federal waters are now open for fishing. Scientists also continue to monitor a rare "sea snot" blizzard in the Gulf as well. Following the spill, scientists began noticing an abundance of marine snow, slimy flakes of tiny dead and living phytoplankton, floating near the drill site. However, because phytoplankton produce a mucus-like substance when stressed, exposure to oil in the water may have led them to produce more mucus than usual. The result, an extra-sticky and heavy marine-snow blizzard, caused the clumps to sink to the sea floor. Apart from depriving fish larvae of food, the blizzard could potentially be toxic; scientists believe tarballs may have gotten stuck in the sticky goo as well, a threat to bottom dwellers that normally feast on dead organisms found on the marine floor. Read more here, here, and here

Days 148-155: Week of september 13

Hundreds of thousands of dead fish were sighted in Bayou Chaland, an area in Lousiana located west of the Mississippi River. Low oxygen levels are to blame, but biologists are also investigating whether oil or dispersants may have any correlation to the kill as well. During low tide, Bayou Chaland becomes isolated, trapping fish and other species there without access to the Gulf, and limiting oxygen levels in the water. Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it will study whether to list the Atlantic bluefin tuna as an endangered species, as a result of the spill's potential impact on the population. With one of its major spawning grounds in the Gulf of Mexico located near the well site, even the loss of a single year's worth of eggs can be detrimental to this already-overfished species. Scientists will review whether the fish should be categorized  as endangered or threatened, a process which could take up to a year, followed by another year to finalize the listing.  Read more here, here, and here

Days 140-147: Week of september 06 

Scientists report that they haven’t found any signs of “dead zones” in the Gulf, and are unlikely to, as oil continues to break up and disperse. Levels of dissolved oxygen have dropped 20 percent below their long-term average, which a task force of experts attributes to microbes that are using the oxygen to dissolve remaining traces of oil. Meanwhile ornithologists worry about the nearly five million migratory birds from Canada currently making their way across North America to the Gulf's marshes and beaches, several of which are still oiled. In addition, because the oil is only inches below the sand, populations of small vertebrates that shorebirds feed on before flying onward to their wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America have been nearly decimated. A sea turtle rescue effort, which involved the relocation of 278 sea turtle nests, including loggerhead, Kemp's Ridley, and green sea turtles, from Alabama and the northwestern coast of Florida to the Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, comes to a close after the Gulf is deemed safe for sea turtle hatchlings. Read more here, here, and here.

 

The Deepwater Crisis did not end with the capping of the ruptured well that, according to scientists in the Flow Rate Technical Group, spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. As professionals assess the situation, implementing necessary measures to manage one of the worst environmental disasters of our time, The Wildlife Society will continue to bring you updates, albeit on a weekly basis. 

 

Day 139: september 05
Extensive testimony before a federal investigative panel and congressional hearings, as well as internal company reports attribute five key human errors and a mechanical failure to the spill: building fewer barriers to gas flow within the well, installing fewer centralizers to keep cement even within the well, failing to keep a bond log to check cement integrity, misinterpreting a pressure test, and removing a mud barrier too early. Despite these mistakes, however, most of oil leak could have been avoided had the blowout preventer activated properly. Read more.   
 
Day 138: september 04
After nearly 30 hours of labor, the faulty blowout preventer is removed from the well site. Some experts speculate that examining the piece of equipment will shed some light as to why it didn't seal shut before the well exploded, but others argue it may not provide any helpful information. Documents reveal that part of the device had a hydraulic leak which could have reduced its effectiveness. In addition, the device didn’t undergo the required recertification process in 2005 to test its safety. Read more.
 
Day 137: september 03
Officials at Mariner Energy—the operators of an oil and gas production platform in the Gulf of Mexico that caught fire on Thursday morning—said that another oil leak as a result of the fire is unlikely. Although the fire occurred on a shallow-water production well, the accident feeds into the growing debate over the Obama administrations deepwater drilling moratorium, which is set to expire in November. Read more.
 
Day 136: september 02
Engineers will begin removing the cap from the blowout preventer around 1 p.m. today. Once the 75-ton cap is removed, experts anticipate small amounts of oil to leak from the preventer before it can be lifted out of the well. The blowout preventer will be used as evidence in a criminal investigation into the spill, and will help determine whether the preventer’s valves simply failed to close, or if they might have been blocked by pipe pieces that were shot up the wellbore, keeping them from performing properly. Read more.
 
Day 135: september 01
A federal judge denies a motion by the Obama administration to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to block the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf. In May, a six-month proposal to stop drilling in the Gulf was overturned, and a second moratorium was issued in July. Although the administration argued that the case should be thrown out, it will remain in court. The plaintiffs, a group of companies that provide equipment to the offshore drilling industry, claim that the government has no evidence that existing oil operations pose a threat to the Gulf. Read more
 
Day 134: august 31
Rescue personnel release 42 Kemp’s ridley turtles (Lepidochelys kempii) off Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in Collier County, Florida—the largest group of turtles released at the refuge so far. This species is also the most endangered species of turtle in the Gulf. According to scientists, only one in 1,000 survive to adulthood. Read more.
 
Day 133: august 30
An internal investigation at BP reveals that company engineers misread data when repairing the faulty well before its explosion on April 20. According to the report, workers on the rig replaced the well’s drilling fluid with seawater, a substance too light to prevent natural gas from leaking into the well and ultimately exploding. Read more.
 
Day 132: august 29
Several of BP’s plans for deep-water drilling in Greenland, Libya and the North Sea have been delayed, a possible sign that the spill in the Gulf may have caused long-term damage to the company’s reputation. Since the spill, BP has been selling assets around the world in order to raise at least $30 billion to cover cleanup costs, fines and lawsuits resulting from the spill. Read more.
 
Day 131: august 28
Within the next month, scientists from MIT may release solar-powered, oil-eating robots known as “Seaswarm” into the Gulf to aid with clean-up. The robots—capable of removing several gallons of oil per hour—will be operated by humans with the use of a remote control and equipped with GPS and wireless communication devices to communicate with other robots. Read more
 
Day 130: august 27
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 4,000 miles of federal waters off the coast of western Louisiana are open to commercial and recreational fishing. Both NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency continue to test seafood from reopened areas of the Gulf, and maintain that seafood coming from its waters is safe for human consumption. Over 48,000 square miles of waters in the Gulf still remain closed to fishermen. Read more
 
Day 129: august 26
According to a report issued today by The Bipartisan Policy Center, the moratorium on deepwater drilling has prepared both industry and government to adopt and develop more stringent safety regulations. The 21-page report states that the higher standards imposed by the Interior Department as a result of the moratorium "will achieve a significant and beneficial reduction of risk." Read more
 
Day 128: august 25
According to a report issued today by The Bipartisan Policy Center, the moratorium on deepwater drilling has prepared both industry and government to adopt and develop more stringent safety regulations. The 21-page report states that the higher standards imposed by the Interior Department as a result of the moratorium "will achieve a significant and beneficial reduction of risk." Read more
 
Day 127: august 24
Scientists discover a new type of oil-eating microbe in the Gulf that thrives in cold water and operates without significantly depleting oxygen levels. Read more.
 
Day 126: august 23
Neil Cramond, the official in charge of handling potential risks related to BP's offshore Gulf operations, testifies today before an investigative panel in Houston that's seeking to examine the cause of the oil spill. Read more.
 
Day 125: august 22
A coalition of national environmental groups claim that the billions in fines that BP is expected to pay combined with a daily assessment of the region's wetlands could bankroll essential coastal wetlands restoration projects that Congress had once refused to fund prior to the oil spill. Read more
 
Day 124: august 21
BP begins its search for a 3,500-foot piece of pipe believed to be stuck in the well's blowout preventer. Once the pipe has been located and removed, BP plans to install newer and more durable blowout preventer and resume drilling the relief well. Read more
 
Day 123: august 20
For the first time since the spill, scientists have mapped out a giant oil plume located 3,000 feet below the Gulf’s surface. The channel, a surprising phenomenon to many scientists, is 650 feet thick and raises serious questions about what damage it is causing to wildlife at that depth. Read more
 
Day 122: august 19
Officials report that the well site will not be permanently sealed until sometime after Labor Day. Before a bottom kill procedure can finally take place, scientists will remove the original blow out preventer and a sealing cap above the damaged well and replace it with a new one—a process that may take three weeks. Read more

 Day 121: august 18
Researchers at the University of Georgia dispute a recent government report claiming that three-quarters of the oil leaked into the Gulf has been collected, evaporated, or burned off. According to the researchers, nearly 79 percent of oil released from the spill still remains. Read more.
 
Day 120: august 17
A University of South Florida report reveals that spilled oil may have settled further east at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico than originally suspected. Scientists blame dispersants, noting their ability to move droplets of oil off of the Gulf’s surface into deeper waters. Not only are plankton and other organisms at the base of the food chain not responding well to contamination, but scientists fear that the oil could also well up onto the continental shelf and resurface later. Read more.
 
Day 119: august 16
Louisiana’s fall shrimp season begins today amidst public concerns that seafood harvested from Gulf waters may be contaminated with oil or dispersant. According to scientists, evidence suggests that traces of dispersant don’t build up in seafood, but precautionary tests using ground up shrimp and other catch samples are underway. Read more.
 
Day 118: august 15
BP pays Alabama more than $240 million to invest in spill recovery, including $87 million for a program that paid out-of-work fishermen to aid with oil response, as well as $22 million in tourism grants. Read more.  
 
Day 117: august 14
The federal government encourages BP to provide details on how it plans to relieve pressure on the well site before the bottom kill procedure can resume by Tuesday. In a worst case scenario, when the well is pumped from the bottom with mud and cement, an increase in pressure inside of the well could release oil up its column and into the ocean. Read more
 
Day 116: august 13
Tests reveal that the outer shell of the leaking well is officially sealed, but officials question if the bottom kill procedure, the final attempt to shut down the well, is necessary. If cement from last week’s static kill has entered the well’s outer casing, then pumping cement through the well’s bottom will be unnecessary. Read more.
 
Day 115: august 12
Louisiana’s marshes, which account for 30 percent of the nation’s coastal marshland, are showing signs of regrowth, a promising sign to scientists studying marsh recovery. Scientists estimate that 3.4 square miles of the state’s marshlands are currently oiled. Read more.
 
Day 114: august 11
A tropical depression on BP's drilling site in the Gulf forces the company to temporarily halt drilling the remaining 30 to 50 feet of the relief well. Personnel hope to resume operations within the next couple of days. Until then, a temporary plug is in place to protect the progress made so far. Read more
 
Day 113: august 10
Scientists find specks of oil in blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) larvae—a sign that oil from the spill has entered the Gulf’s food web and may start moving up the chain. Although smaller species may be able to ingest small doses of oil and survive, scientists fear that animals at the top of the food chain, including dolphins and tuna, could ingest larger, fatal doses from the species that they consume. Read more.
 
Day 112: august 9
BP resumes drilling the relief well that will intersect the blown-out well, effectively sealing it permanently. Experts predict that the process will take a week to complete. Read more.
 
Day 111: august 8 
Weeks after the well has been capped, officials are rescuing more oiled birds than ever before—averaging 71 per day. To help alleviate the problem, a federal conservation agency is paying some farmers and ranchers to flood their fields in attempts to provide feeding and resting areas for birds passing through the major migratory flyway near the Gulf. Read more.
 
Day 110: august 7
Despite a current loss of 3,606 birds, 508 endangered sea turtles, 67 marine mammals, and counting, some scientists remain optimistic, hoping that the species and fragile ecosystems of the Gulf will eventually recover. Read more
 
Day 109: august 6
Drilling companies prepare to return to work and start drilling, amidst uncertainty over whether the federal moratorium on deepwater oil exploration in the Gulf will be lifted. Read more
 
Day 108: august 5
Sixty-two rehabilitated birds including laughing gulls (Larus atricilla) and brown pelicans (Pelicanus occidentalis) are released on Rabbit Island in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, marking the first in-state bird release. Read more
 
Day 107: august 4
BP officials report that the static kill—BP’s latest attempt to shut down its ruptured well with the use of mud and cement to plug oil flow—is successful. Read more.
 
Day 106: august 3
Rescue personnel relocate more than 45 threatened and endangered sea turtle hatchings from the Gulf to Florida’s East Coast. Since June 26, over 130 sea turtle nests have been relocated from beaches in Alabama, Mississippi and the Florida Panhandle. Read more.
 
Day 105: august 2
Based on new data, scientists now estimate that 53,000 barrels of oil per day were leaking from BP’s oil well prior to it being capped on July 15. Overall, approximately 4.9 million barrels of oil have escaped from the well since the beginning of the spill on April 20. Read more.
 
Day 104: august 1
Congressional investigators criticize the United States Coast Guard and BP for spraying too much chemical dispersant on Gulf waters, fearing potential long-term environmental effects of the chemical, which are currently unknown. Read more.
 
Day 103: July 31
Cleanup continues on National Parks Service lands and Fish and Wildlife Service refuges along the Gulf Coast. Over 17,000 pounds of oiled debris are removed from islands throughout the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Read more.
 
Day 102: July 30
Commercial fishing resumes in Louisiana state waters, spanning from the Mississippi River Delta to the Mississippi state line. The Food and Drug Association supports the decision, noting that any seafood harvested from the area is safe to eat. Read more.
 
Day 101: July 29
Scientists report that hundreds of millions of gallons of oil still remain in small droplets beneath the surface of the Gulf. Oil slicks are expected to remain present for weeks and months to come. Read more.
 
Day 100: July 28
Although no additional oil has been leaking from the spill site since July 15—the day the well was capped, officials report that oil sheens remaining on the water are hard to skim, burn, or treat with dispersant, meaning that spill response and cleanup are far from over. Read more.
 
Day 99: July 27
BP confirms that CEO Tony Hayward will step down from his position Oct. 1, and Robert Dudley, an American, will become BP PLC’s first non-British chief executive. BP, which has reported a $17 billion loss, has set aside $32.2 billion to cover oil-spill related costs. Read more.
 
Day 98: July 26
Hundreds of endangered baby Kemp’s ridley turtles are released into the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas. Biologists hope that by the time the turtles reach the spill site, most of the oil will have dissipated. Read more.
 
Day 97: July 25
Operations to drill relief wells have resumed in the Gulf after having been previously suspended due to threats from Tropical Storm Bonnie. Read more.

Day 96: July 24

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that Tropical Storm Bonnie is predicted to help dissipate surface oil, break tar patches into smaller tar balls, and cause natural dispersion, which will help lower oil concentrations in the water.  So far, approximately 637 miles of Gulf Coast shoreline is oiled. Read more.

Day 95: July 23

According to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the Unified Area Command, as of noon today, a total of 2,710 birds, 64 mammals, and 484 sea turtles have been found dead and collected in the vicinity of the BP spill. Read more.    

Day 94: July 22

Non-essential oil spill cleanup crews have begun evacuating as a tropical depression takes shape in the Caribbean. The storm may force a delay in work on the relief well, which was expected to be completed by the end of July. Read more.   

Day 93: July 21

As a new oil spill in China's Yellow Sea threatens marine life and shorebirds, the impact of the Gulf of Mexico spill on wildlife continues. The Wall Street Journal reports that an attempt to push oil away from shore by releasing freshwater into the Gulf back in April may have led to the destruction of thousands of acres of oyster beds in the region. Read more.   

Day 92: July 20

A new website, www.geoplatform.gov/gulfresponse, uses GIS data to give near-real-time updates on the Gulf oil spill, such as where skimming vessels are deployed, where sea turtles have been spotted, current weather conditions, and fishing area closure information.  

Day 91: July 19

The U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory is asking members of the public to report sightings of banded birds affected by the BP oil spill. Read more.     

Day 90: July 18

Continuing well integrity tests revealed lower-than-expected pressure readings, causing some to fear that there could be instability in the cap or perhaps in the seafloor near the well head. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen reported that the tests would continue. Read more.     

Day 89: July 17

After a lengthy test period, officials decided not to deploy "A Whale"--a supertanker skimmer--after finding it was only removing a small amount of oil compared to how much water it was scooping up. Read more.     

Day 88: July 16

The cap on the well is holding, meaning the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico has stopped, according to BP. The development was met with cautious optimism by President Obama and many in the Gulf, though tests will continue to ensure the cap holds. Read more.     

Day 87: July 15

Necropsies are in full swing to identify the precise causes of death of hundreds of turtles, birds, dolphins, and other wildlife found dead or dying in the vicinity of the BP oil spill. According to the New York Times, the results of these tests may influence the cost of penalties the oil company will face. Read more.    

 Day 86: July 14

Out of fear of a well blowout, BP officials temporarily delayed tests on the procedure to cap the leaking well and delayed work on a second relief well. Read more.    

Day 85: July 13

Contrary to previous reports, the results of new tests on the tar balls that have washed onto the shores of Texas confirm that their source is the Gulf oil spill. Read more.   

Day 84: July 12

The National Oil Spill Commission--an expert panel charged by President Obama to discover why and how the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred--began hearings today in New Orleans with testimony from BP and Coast Guard leaders and a discussion of the devastating economic impacts of the spill. Read more.   

Day 83: July 11

BP is continuing the procedure dubbed "capping stack"--involving switching out the current "top hat" container for a larger container that should be capable of capturing more oil from the leaking Deepwater Horizon well. To do so, however, they must fully remove the top hat, meaning oil may flow into the Gulf of Mexico at very high rates, if only for a short period of time. Read more.    

Day 82: July 10

Sea turtle egg evacuations begin along the Gulf of Mexico. Once collected, authorities will transport the eggs to Florida's Kennedy Space Center, where they will incubate. Once they have hatched, they will be released into the Atlantic Ocean. Read more

Day 81: July 9

Preliminary test results show that most tar balls that showed up on Texas beaches were unrelated to the oil spill. Read more.   

Day 80: July 8

NOAA issues a press release on ways to assess and respond to wild dolphins impacted by the oil spill. Read more. 

Day 79: July 7

The administration launches RestoreTheGulf.gov, a new web portal with the latest information and resources on the oil spill. Read more.  

Day 78: July 6

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel discover a leaking well head on the north side of Trinity Island in Louisiana. Several nesting islands require booms or repairs to existing booms. Read more

Day 77: July 5

Tar balls wash ashore two Texas beaches. Read more

Day 76: July4

NOAA expands the closed fishing area in the Gulf of Mexico, bringing the total restricted area up to 81,181 square miles. Read more

Day 75: July 3

NOAA’s oil plume model shows that the oil plume is 42 miles from Panama City and 251 miles from St. Petersburg, Florida. Read more

Day 74: July 2

The House passes the first major oil spill bill, which votes for compensations for the victims’ families that are a lot larger than the current law allows. Read more

Day 73: July 1

EPA releases results from the first round of toxicity testing of eight oil dispersants, none of which showed signs of biologically significant endocrine disrupting activity. Some dispersants, however, appeared to have more of an impact on aquatic life than others. Read more

Day 72: june 30

Admiral Thad Allen retires from the Coast Guard, but will continue to serve as the Gulf oil spill response commander. Read more

Day 71: june 29

BP meets its July 1 deadline and pays the U.S. government $71 million for initial costs associated with the Gulf oil spill. Read more

Day 70: june 28

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Policy Carol Browner travel to New Orleans to review the ongoing response to the oil spill. Read more

Day 69: june 27

In addition to Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana, for the first time, Mississippi beaches show traces of oil. Read more.  

Day 68: june 26

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission develop and launch the Turtle Late-Term Nest Collection and Hatchling Release Plan—an effort to translocate an anticipated 700 sea turtle nests to prevent the loss of endless numbers of hatchlings. Read more.

Day 67: june 25

Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announces a plan to establish new oversight and enforcement initiatives. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to rescue wildlife; so far the Service has recruited 528 staff members to conduct aerial flights to identify impacted wildlife. BP says it’s on track to finish drilling a relief oil well by mid-August. Read more here and here

Day 66: june 24

Carol Browner, assistant to the president for energy and climate change, meets with BP executives to discuss containment issues, claims processing, scientific monitoring, and other critical issues. Read more

Day 65: june 23

Engineers restore the cap on BP’s ruptured oil well after an underwater robot bumps into the “top hat” device, damaging one of the vents, and forcing crews to temporarily remove the cap. Read more

Day 64: june 22

U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman lifts the federal government's six-month moratorium on deepwater drilling, stating that, "The court is unable to divine or fathom a relationship between the findings and the immense scope of the moratorium." Read more

Day 63: june 21

NOAA expands the closed fishing area to keep portions of the oil slick from spreading beyond the current boundaries of the Florida panhandle towards Mississippi. Approximately 36 percent of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico have been closed off to fishing. See Fishery Closure Map here

Day 62: june 20

Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass), chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming says that BP is either “lying or grossly incompetent” regarding its worst-case projections of the extent of oil lost each day. Read more.

Day 61: june 19

Crews have begun cementing and casing the liner of the first relief well even as the Development Driller III continues to drill the well to a depth of roughly 11,000 feet below the sea floor. Read more.

Day 60: june 18

Oil collection aboard Discover Enterprise is suspended as the ship’s flame arrestor, a device that prevents ignition of potentially dangerous materials such as oil, becomes blocked. Read more

Day 59: june 17

Oil continues to spread into Barataria Bay, east of Grand Terre, Louisiana. So far, approximately 21.2 million gallons of oily water have been recovered. Texas Representative Joe Barton apologizes to BP CEO Tony Hayward, referring to the company as the victim of a “$20 billion shakedown.” A few hours later, Barton retracts his apology. Read more here and here

Day 58: june 16

President Obama and top administration officials meet with BP officials at the White House. BP agrees to build a $20 billion escrow fund to cover economic losses for oil spill victims and businesses. Read more

Day 57: june 15

In his first Oval Office address, President Obama outlines his plan to manage the impacts of the oil spill, calling it a wake-up call for the country to change the way energy is produced and used. U.S. government scientists revise their oil leak estimates from 20,000 to 40,000 barrels of oil per day to 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day. Read more here and here

Day 56: june 14

BP announces its new oil collection strategy designed to capture up to 53,000 barrels of oil per day by the end of this month, and approximately 80,000 barrels per day by mid-July. Read more

Day 55: june 13

The Unified Command increases skimming and beach cleanup activities in impacted areas in the gulf. Approximately 400 skimmers are currently deployed to remove an oil-water mix from the region. Read more

Day 54: june 12

President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron discuss BP’s need to do everything it can to manage the Deepwater Horizon crisis. President Obama also tells Prime Minister Cameron that he has no interest in undermining the oil company over the spill. Read more
Day 53: june 11
Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen announces that he’s considering redeploying assets to impacted areas to better manage the oil spill. Currently there are 25,000 people working on the gusher in the Gulf, using several hundred barges and skimming vessels, as well as 2,500 government and contract vessels and 66 aircraft. Read more
Day 52: june 10
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports on a decision to expand a bird-holding area at the Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center near Venice, Louisiana. So far, rescue crews have found 590 visibly oiled birds and, according to FWS, another 532 birds that were not visibly oiled. Senate Democrats send a letter to BP’s Tony Hayward asking it to create a $20 billion fund to pay for economic damages and clean-up costs. Read more here and here.

 Day 51: june 9

President Obama announces his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast scheduled for June 14 and 15. The President will visit Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida to assess the latest clean-up and rescue efforts in the region. Read more

Day 50: june 8

The British government announces a plan to toughen its inspections of North Sea drilling rigs. Read more

Day 49: june 7

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares to release rehabilitated birds on Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. Read more

Day 48: june 6

According to BP CEO, Tony Hayward, the new cap is capturing "probably the vast majority" of the oil spewing out of the ruptured pipe. On Saturday, June 5, approximately 10,000 barrels of oil were captured. Read more.   

Day 47: june 5

Instances of wildlife impacted by the oil spill become more frequent. Read more
Day 46: june 4
Despite being capped, oil continues to leak out of the ruptured pipe. Read more
Day 45: june 3
Technicians manage to slice off the leaking oil pipe. Next, they plan to cap the remaining pipe with a dome that will allow them to funnel the gushing oil to tankers on the surface. Read more.

Day 44: june 2
BP’s latest plan to stop the oil flow by slicing off the leaking pipe using a diamond-tipped saw fails when the saw sticks in the pipe. Personnel spend 12 hours freeing the saw. BP is now considering giant shears to slice off the ruptured pipe. BP’s stock plummets as federal government announces civil and criminal investigations into the April 20 oil spill. Read more here and here
Day 43: june 1
Several heavily oiled pelicans are spotted on Queen Bess near Grand Isle, Louisiana. In addition to buried oil on almost all sand beaches, rescue and clean-up crews discover tar balls on Grand Terre, Grand Isle, and Four Bayou Pass. Read more
Day 42: May 31
NOAA reports that south and southwest winds could push oil closer to the Mississippi Delta. The agency extends the fishing ban to include 61,854 miles or 26 percent of the Gulf of Mexico. Read more.
Day 41: May 30
According to toxicologists and oceanologists, the Gulf oil spill is creating huge undersea “dead zones,” made up of clouds of crude and chemical dispersants. The UK’s Independent reports that research vessels have already identified at least two such clouds, the largest approximately six miles wide, 22 miles long, and 3,300 feet deep. Read more
Day 40: May 29
BP's top kill process fails. Read more
 
Day 39: May 28
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals reopens a handful of oyster harvesting areas. President Obama visits Grand Isle, Louisiana. Read more here and here.
Day 38: May 27
Minerals Management Service Director Elizabeth Birnbaum resigns. At a news conference, President Obama announces the suspension of action on all 33 exploratory deep-water oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more here and here.
Day 37: May 26
BP’s internal investigation finds numerous issues that led to the explosion of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, including problems with the rig's cementing job as well as testing procedures. Read more
Day 36: May 25
Beyond Petroleum begins top kill procedure, where engineers will plug the hole in the ruptured pipe with mud and cement. BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward estimates the procedure has a 60 to 70 percent success rate. Read more.   
 Day 35: May 24

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke declares a fishery disaster in the Gulf of Mexico because of the significant economic impact of the oil spill on commercial and recreational fisheries in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Read more.

Day 34: May 23

Secretary Salazar meets with the federal science team working with BP officials and other personnel at the BP Command Center in Houston. By now, more than 10.24 million gallons of oily water have been recovered. Read more

Day 33: May 22

President Obama announces that he has signed an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. The Commission will recommend measures to prevent and mitigate the impact of future spills caused from offshore drilling, as well as focus on environmental and safety precautions to avoid similar accidents in the future. Read more.

Day 32: May 21

Oil clean-up continues at Breton National Wildlife Refuge. Although oil hasn’t been detected at the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, officials have requested boom to keep the oil out. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that 32 national wildlife refuges could potentially be impacted by the oil spill. Read more

Day 31: May 20

The Environmental Protection Agency issues a directive that requires Beyond Petroleum to identify and use a less toxic and more effective dispersant, for the surface and under water, from the EPA's list of authorized dispersants. Read more

Day 30: May 19

Oil spill responders conduct a third successful controlled burn, which helps remove oil from the open water and protects the shoreline as well as wildlife. By now, more than 200 U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel are involved in the oil spill response. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signs a Secretarial Order that restructures and divides the Minerals Management Service into separate entities. Read updates here and here.  

Day 29: May 18

Satellite imagery reveals a stream of light oil has entered the Loop Current, even though the bulk of it still appears to be dozens of miles away. The European Space Agency estimates that oil could reach the coral reefs of the Florida Keys within a week. Read more

Day 28: May 17

NOAA expands fishing restrictions to include 24,241 square miles, roughly 10 percent of the Gulf of Mexico exclusive economic zone. A majority of federal waters in the Gulf stay open for recreational and commercial fishing. Read more.

Day 27: May 16

In what most consider the first technical success in three weeks, BP officials install a Riser Insertion Tube tool—a mile-long tube inserted into the ruptured pipeline that will help control the oil flow by funneling approximately 2,000 barrels of oil per day from the well into a tanker ship. Read more

Day 26: May 15

Sixteen rescued birds, including northern gannets, brown pelicans, and laughing gulls, were dead on arrival at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife rehabilitation centers. Eight live birds—two northern gannets, one green heron, one laughing gull, one magnificent frigate bird, and three brown pelicans—were also admitted to the centers. Read more.

Day 25: May 14

A National Public Radio investigation reveals that the rate of oil spill is at least 10 times the size of official estimates—approximately 70,000 barrels of oil per day. The U.S. Geological Survey and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Insitute, in collaboration with NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, plan for potential manatee monitoring and rescues in the region. Read updates here and here.   

Day 24: May 13

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues aerial surveys across the coast, focusing on the Chandeleur Islands, Breton and Delta National Wildlife Refuges, and the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts. Bad weather and rough seas continue to impact rescue operations. Rescue teams report a handful of sightings of oiled birds. Read more.

Day 23: May 12

NOAA's Damage Assessment Remediation and Restoration Program is conducting a Natural Resource Damange Assessment geared towards collecting data on oiled fish and wildlife, and their habitat. The agency's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science as well as Fisheries Southeast Fisheries Science Center are conducting bottlenose dolphin studies in Louisiana and Mississippi to evaluate baseline levels of the marine mammal's exposure to environmental contaminants, including oil. So far, response crews have recovered approximately 4 million gallons of oily water. Read updates here and here

Day 22: May 11

Beyond Petroleum, Transocean, and Halliburton officials testify before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. As oil approaches, emergency response crews set up containment booms around Raccoon Island, Louisiana’s largest brown pelican colony. Read press releases here and here.

Day 21: May 10

The first two oiled birds—a northern gannet and brown pelican—found in the Deepwater oil spill are released at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic coast northeast of Vero, Florida. Read more.

Day 20: May 9

Beyond Petroleum temporarily removes the 100-ton box after unsuccessful attempts to seal off the ruptured pipe. National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Acting Director Rowan Gould head to the Gulf to assist with recovery efforts on wildlife refuges. Read more.

Day 19: May 8

The U.S. Geological Survey Oil Response Team is activated to assist with daily response activities. To protect wildlife from additional disturbances, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits aircraft from flying below 500 feet across the region’s national wildlife refuges. Read more

Day 18: May 7

Beyond Petroleum lowers a 100-ton steel and concrete box towards the ocean floor to block the constant oil flow from the ruptured well. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry monitors the Gulf oil spill. As oil reaches the Chandeleur Islands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service closes off public access to Breton National Wildlife Refuge. Read more.

Day 17: May 6

Authorities report pelicans displaying an oily sheen on the edge of Chandeleur Islands on Breton National Wildlife Refuge. Yet no oil has been detected on the pelican nesting islands protected by containment booms. Several national wildlife refuges, including Breton, Delta, Grand Bay, and Bon Secour, are designated as areas that could be heavily impacted. Read more.

Day 16: May 5

Oil flow remains constant at approximately 5,000 barrels a day, even as Beyond Petroleum caps one of three holes. The National Park Service (NPS) creates an oil spill response website with details on park closures and on NPS efforts to protect natural resources at risk. Read more.

Day 15: May 4

Approximately 20 additional vessels and 4,500 responders (bringing the total number of responders up to approximately 7,500) are deployed to the Gulf Coast. Because of the oil spill, the Environmental Protection Agency begins monitoring air quality in the region, making the data available to the public. Access data here.

Day 14: May 3

Authorities rescue a moderately oiled young male pelican on Stone Island in Breton Sound. More than 2,000 volunteers, including local fishermen, are trained to help with the clean-up operations. As winds are forecast to shift in the southeastern direction, officials expect oil to move in the same direction, away from the Mississippi River Delta and Breton National Wildlife Refuge over the next couple of days. Read more.

Day 13: May 2

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announces a 10-day minimum fishing restriction—effective immediately—in heavily impacted federal waters. Read more.

Day 12: May 1

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues conducting aerial surveys to identify oiled wildlife. Eight staging areas begin operating in the region. Approximately 2,000 personnel are involved in clean-up operations. Read more.

Day 11: April 30

The Secretary of Defense authorizes activation of the Louisiana National Guard. The Environmental Protection Agency begins testing water quality in the region. Beyond Petroleum contractors recover the first oiled bird—a northern gannet—and deliver it to a wildlife rescue facility in Venice, Louisiana, where the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research organization begins treatment. Read more.

Day 10: April 29

The government designates the Deepwater crisis a Spill of National Significance and begins building on ongoing efforts in the region. By now, cleaning crews have recovered 763,560 gallons of oily water. Read more.

Day 9: April 28

The U.S. Coast Guard conducts a 30-minute controlled, on-location burn. The agency also places 9,000 feet of containment rings around the Passe a Loutre Wildlife Management Area. Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, announces in a press briefing that 5,000 barrels, or 210,000 gallons of oil a day, are leaking—five times more than originally estimated. Read more.

Day 8: April 27

Plans for a controlled burn of surface oil—heavily contingent on the weather—are approved for the following day. At this point in the crisis, 29,280 feet of boom have been deployed and 260,652 gallons of oily water has been recovered. In addition, 29,140 gallons of dispersants have been applied. Read more.

Day 7: April 26

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies to identify national wildlife refuges in the region that could be heavily impacted by drifting oil, therefore requiring the highest priority for booming operations. Read more.

Day 6: April 25

Flight assessments over the area reveal that the size of the oil spill is approximately 48 miles in width by 39 miles in length. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Landry reports that approximately 1,000 barrels or 42,000 gallons of oil are leaking. Bad weather forces emergency crews to suspend clean-up efforts. Read more.

Day 5: April 24

The U.S. Coast Guard reports two oil leaks—one from the riser (a pipe connecting the top of the wellbore on the ocean floor and the drilling equipment)—and another from the drill pipe. Approximately 40,000 gallons of oily water is recovered. The agency establishes a Regional Command Center and Joint Information Center in Robert, Louisiana. The National Park Service begins preparing for the impact of the oil spill on national park land in the region. Read more.

Day 4: April 23

Although the U.S. Coast Guard reports that no leak is apparent from the undersea well—which lies about a mile below the surface of the Gulf—100,000 gallons of oil dispersants are pre-positioned between Stennis, Mississippi, and Houma and Lake Charles, Louisiana. The search for the 11 missing crew members is suspended. Read more.

Day 3: April 22

Approximately 100 of the survivors are brought to shore. Beyond Petroleum deploys Remotely Operated Vehicles or ROVs to determine whether oil is flowing from the well. At about 10 a.m. the Deepwater Horizon platform—holding some 700,000 gallons of diesel fuel—sinks. Read more.

Day 2: April 21

Interagency coordination and investigation begins among federal partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry is named Federal On-Scene Coordinator. A search for the missing personnel continues. Read more.

Day 1: April 20

Deepwater Horizon, a 400-by-250-foot oil-drilling rig operated by Beyond Petroleum, explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, 45 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana. Seven of the 126 crew members on board are critically injured. Eleven are reported missing. Read more.

Compiled by Divya Abhat and Madeleine Thomas.

Additional Resources

 
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