Southeast winds and currents will continue through Friday afternoon, local weather reports say. By Saturday, however, winds will have shifted and will be coming from the west and southwest.
Recent oil spill history suggests that means an increased chance of oil pollution spilling onto local beaches over the weekend and into early next week.
2. Panhandle Slide Show.
McClatchy News has a slide show of eighteen Panhandle photos taken by Steve Johnson and Lilly Echeverria over the 4th of July weekend from Perdido Key to Destin. Two dramatic photos (#5 and #6) show "oil mousse and tarballs" sloshing around just offshore of Pensacola Beach. Another (#4) is a closeup of tarballs in the sand.
The slide show makes a bit of news, too. #9 is a photo of wait-in-line-numbers-dispenser Frank Patti in front of the fish counter inside the popular Joe Patti's Seafood Market (named after his father). While Frank says he has no plans to close the doors, he admits "he might have to downsize."
3. Two Tries at Lessening the Leak.
Mark Seibel, also of McClatchy News, has a sobering analysis of the two ideas BP has developed for lessening the oil gusher as early as this month. ["Oil Containment Effort Facing Two Key Moments"]
The first will happen for sure: the connection of a third ship to the jury-rigged containment system through which BP has been capturing about 24,000 barrels of oil per day since early June. That may take place as soon as this weekend, depending on how rough the seas are....Three huge tankers and countless skimmer boats trying to scoop up oil and distill "product" from a mile-deep broken well and off the surface of the water has never been tried before. According to BP's latest public face, Doug Suttles, it's an approach that has serious risks for "several hundred people...working in a confined space with live hydrocarbons on up to four vessels."
Moreover, Suttles adds, "This is significantly beyond both BP and industry practice." BP is still making it up as the leak goes along.
Stopping the oil slime altogether is what everyone wants, of course. One way to do that quickly, according to Seibel, is to a install "a new containment cap" that would seal off the well completely by "being bolted directly to the blowout preventer rather than sitting loosely atop a sheared-off pipe."
That's the second idea. Fred Tasker of the Miami Herald suggested late last week this could be tried as early as July 15.
It's far from certain, however, that an attempt at this should be made at all. The risks are huge. If installing a new containment cap were to be unsuccessful it's likely the well would rage beyond all control.
The new containment cap was the subject of Cabinet-level meetings in Washington last week, including one with President Barack Obama and the decision remains uncertain.Doubtless, the White House is gnawing its tail, wondering if it should take a chance on another of BP's improvised engineering solutions and approve the experiment. The oil company's engineers have failed so many times before it's hard to imagine trusting their judgment again.
4. Relief Wells.
There is a third possibility. The long-anticipated first relief well begun by BP on May 2 is now said by WaPo to be "just 12 feet away laterally, and with only about 200 feet to go before it reaches the interception target." We could know as early as July 27 if it works to staunch the oil gusher permanently, according to BP's newest happy-face, Bob Dudley.
The blown-out well will be intercepted at a point where there is both a 9-inch steel casing and a 7-inch pipe inside of it. It is unknown whether the oil and gas is flowing inside those structures or in the space between them, or both. Oil and gas may be surging between the original wall of the hole and the outside of the steel casing -- a space that was cemented before the well erupted on April 20. Or the flow could be taking place in the "annulus" between the casing and the pipe. Or it could be within the pipe itself -- or some combination of all that.Coast Guard Admiral (ret.) Thad Allen does not agree with the end of July prediction.
More than one mud shot may be necessary in order to fill the spaces where hydrocarbons are surging to the surface. After the mud comes cement. Each mud and cement shot could take a week to 10 days, Allen said.
Allen said the relief well will be in place to penetrate the leaking borehole in seven to 10 days. The process of filling the hole with mud and then capping with cement will take another seven to 10 days and, he said, might have to be done a number of times, depending on where the oil is coming out.Furthermore, Allen cautions that weather and the distinct possibility that the first relief well fails to precisely find the target may delay things further.
The second relief well which the Obama administration ordered to be drilled started two weeks after the first, on May 16.
5. Toxic Pensacola Beaches.
Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott late yesterday joined the chorus pointing out that local government officials in Pensacola are working hand-in-hand with BP Corp. to "downplay" the "public health risk from oil and dispersants."
Three days later on Pensacola Beach, I watched BP's HazMat-trained workers shovel surface oiled sand and oily debris into bags early in the morning. The workers followed the waterline like shorebirds, scurrying up the beach in front of breaking waves and moving back down with receding waters."I was astounded," Dr. Ott adds. "Why did people think the ocean was safe for swimming?"
The late morning sun retired the workers to the shade of their tents and the job of "observing," while it brought out throngs of beach-goers -- children, parents, grandparents -- who happily plunged into the "contaminated" ocean without a second thought.
One photo from the slide show accompanying her travelogue hints at the answer:
Ott says people should keep in mind an aphorism she learned in toxicology studies: "Dose plus host makes the poison."
A small child is at risk of breathing a higher dose of contaminants per body weight than an adult. Children, pregnant women, people with compromised or stressed immune systems like cancer survivors and asthma sufferers, and African Americans are more at risk from oil and chemical exposure - the latter because they are prone to sickle cell anemia and 2-butoxyethanol can cause, or worsen, blood disorders.And when they find themselves at the beach they might ask themselves a common-sense question since local, state, and federal public health officials have fallen so silent: "If oil was so nontoxic, then why are the spill response workers giving hazardous waste training?"
6. Jimmy Buffettology.
Jimmy Buffett continues to work on replacing Country Music singers Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown, who can't make the re-scheduled Gulf Shores beach concert this coming Sunday because of prior commitments. The concert definitely will go on, although from the weather reports it shouldn't surprise anyone if the concert stage is surrounded by tarballs and oil mousse.
In the meantime, Buffett whipped out a snappy answer to some reporter's political question, 'Who besides BP caused this ungodly mess, anyway?'
Buffett, a supporter of President Barack Obama, said the roots of the spill lie with the administration of former President George Bush, which was often criticized for being too cozy with the petroleum industry.Now, that bon mot just might have the makings of a timeless song lyric, if Buffett ever wants to widen his repertoire to include protest music.
"To me it was more about eight years of bad policy before (Obama) got there that let this happen. It was Dracula running the blood bank in terms of oil and leases," he said.