Oil spills along Miss. River contained: Coast Guard
By Frank McGurty
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (Reuters) - All the oil spilled in six major Louisiana incidents after Hurricane Katrina has been contained and almost none of it flowed directly into the Mississippi River , the U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday.
A total of 160,000 barrels of oil leaked from tanks and pipelines at the six principal sites damaged by the August 29 hurricane, including Murphy Oil Co.'s Mereux, Louisiana , refinery. Of that, teams have recovered some 50,000 barrels, each of which equals 42 gallons.
"Much of the oil has already dispersed naturally or has evaporated, said Capt. Frank Paskewich, federal on-scene coordinator for the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard has fielded no reports of offshore spills in the Gulf of Mexico , he said, though leaks could spring when the thousands of oil platforms and hundreds of miles of pipeline are restarted. Last year, Hurricane Ivan was responsible for oil spills in the Gulf, he said.
Paskewich dismissed suggestions by an environmental advocacy group that satellite photos showed some 7,000 square miles of oil floating in the Gulf, saying numerous flyovers revealed only minor sheening.
Skytruth, a group that uses satellite imagery to track environmental damage, says extensive oil slicks are visible in areas of the Gulf raked by hurricane-force winds.
Some of the spills are coming directly from oil platforms, while others suggest damage from pipelines on the seabed, according to the group's Web site (http://www.skytruth.com).
"Daily overflights are being conducted to find the real truth of what's going on," Paskewich said in an interview. "As for now, I am confident that we have not received any reports of significant oil spills offshore."
MOST OIL CONTAINED
Officials expect the cleanup along the Mississippi to be complete in a matter of weeks, but the longer term impact of the spill on the environment has yet to be determined.
Thankfully, nearly all of the oil was contained by earthenberms designed for that purpose. Any oil that escaped the berms flowed inland, away from the river levees, Paskewich said. Only a few minor oil sheens, thin enough to evaporate in the sun, have appeared on the river so far, he said, and they probably came from small watercraft that sank in the storm.
None of the leaks sent oil directly into the Mississippi River at the six sites, which all lie south of New Orleans . The leaks involved either ruptured tanks or pipelines protected by levees.
The largest spill occurred at a facility operated by Bass Enterprises Production Co. in Cox Bay, Louisiana , where 3.78 million gallons of oil discharged, the Coast Guard said in a news release.
Major oil spills, defined as 100,000 gallons or more, also occurred at a Royal Dutch Shell facility in Pilot Town, Louisiana, and at a Chevron facility in Empire, Louisiana. Each of those spills involved about 1 million gallons (4.55 million liters), while the spill at the Murphy refinery amounted to more than 800,000 gallons (3.64 million liters).
Source : REUTERS