Coast Guard tries Burning Gulf Oil Slick

In this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico, weathered oil is seen near the coast of Louisiana after a leak that resulted from last week's explosion.

BATON ROUGE, La. —Efforts had been made to stop the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico yet until now, the crew are struggling to contain the leaks.And so they consider a new solution to stop the spill by lighting some of the petroleum on fire at 11 a.m. Central time in an attempt to burn it off before it reaches shore.

Coast Guard officials said burning within boomed-off areas has worked with other offshore oil spills. If they decide to go forward with such a plan, they said, the burn likely wouldn’t be visible from shore,to determine the density of the oil, although they acknowledged the huge smoke plumes could add to air pollution.

The slick was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of the mouth of the Mississippi River, drifted to within 23 miles of the ecologically fragile Louisiana coastline on Tuesday. Thus, pushing the officials to consider the ignition as an option to slick off the oil.

About 42,000 gallons of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf from the blown-out well where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank last week. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead. The cause of the explosion has not been determined.

“The big things that we have to pay attention to are the sea conditions,” Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Carleton said. “Solid oil obviously has the ability to burn, but it doesn’t burn the same way that gasoline does.”

It is an inherently risky move, said engineers, but less risky than the alternatives.

“When you’ve got an oil leak like this, you use every tool in the toolbox to keep it offshore,” said Edward Overton, a professor emeritus of environmental sciences at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. “If it gets to shore, it’s going to coat everything with this sticky, gooey stuff and create a tremendous, awful mess.”

The spill put scores of wildlife species at risk, including the gulf’s valuable stocks of shrimp, crabs, oysters, and other seafood, plus shorebirds including pelicans, terns and sandpipers. Commercial fishing in Louisiana is a $2.6 billion-a-year industry that supplies up to 25 percent of the seafood to states outside Alaska and Hawaii.

In today’s burn, a portion of the oil will be moved into a fire resistant boom about 500 feet long, the Coast Guard said. The oil will then be towed to a more remote area, ignited and burned in a controlled manner.

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