The Naval Postgraduate School & The U.S. Department of Homeland Security

UPDATE: Working to Mitigate the Disaster in the Gulf

On April 21, 2010, Transocean reported that a fire and explosion had occurred on a semisubmersible drilling rig located off the coast of Louisiana. After burning for more than a day and efforts by the US Coast Guard and British Petroleum (BP) to put out the fire failed and the platform sank. US Coast Guard officials estimate 8,000 gallons of oil are spilling into the Gulf of Mexico everyday and are affecting a wide area as is shown in this April 25, 2010 overflight map. President Obama asked that "the entire federal government was offering all assistance needed in the rescue effort as well as in mitigating and responding to the environmental impact and that this response was being treated as the number one priority." According to the press release "the National Response Team has been activated and Unified and Area Commands have been established near New Orleans to coordinate search and rescue operations and oil spill response efforts." The US Coast Guard, US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of the Interior, Materials Management Service, British Petroleum (BP) and Transocean have developed a Gulf of Mexico-Transocean Drilling Incident website that provides up-to-date information on this incident. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is updating their page on the current situation and roles of various organizations and agencies, and the US Coast Guard has also posted a video of their effort to extinguish the flames. UPDATE: According to the latest press release, the US Coast Guard (USCG) is planning to commence controlled burns of the oil spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on weather conditions, the oil is expected to reach the shore within a few days and could cause significant damage to the environment, especially the wetland areas along the southern states, the fish habitats and the oyster beds located near the Mississippi River Delta. Burning the oil in controlled batches before it hits the coastal areas has been planned to mitigate the environmental and economic impact. To learn more about this method of responding to oil spills and other information on oil spills view Chapter 3: Alternative Countermeasure for Oil Spills of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) document Understanding Oil Spills and Oil Spill Response. In coordination with the USCG, the EPA will monitor air quality to make sure safety standards are maintained. A joint press conference is expected to take place at 3pm CST to update the media on the latest response efforts. Continually updated information and photos can be found on the Gulf of Mexico-Transocean Drilling Incident website. Additionally, the National Library of Medicine has a new webpage of links to information on Crude Oil Spills and Human Health. The page has links to information on how the US responds to oil spills, state agencies in the Gulf region that respond to spills, occupational hazards for professionals and volunteers assisting with clean-up, seafood safety and more.