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Efforts Continue to Contain Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

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Nearly two weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the stricken well continues to gush more than 200,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico each day. President Barack Obama, who visited Southern Louisiana yesterday, warned that the resulting oil spill was a “massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster” that could take quite some time to stop.

According to The Associated Press, during his visit yesterday, Obama promised that his administration was doing all it could to mitigate the disaster. But the President also said BP would be required to pay for the entire cleanup operation.

Wildlife is expected to take a serious hit. Already, as many as 200 dead sea turtles have washed up on the coast of Mississippi. According to The New York Times, officials in Louisiana fear that a massive influx of oil could overwhelm and kill off the grasses that are vital to sustaining life in the coastal marshes there. Those marshes are already stressed, the Times said, and there are fears that this oil spill could become the “straw that broke the camel’s back”.

The best case scenario is that the well will continue spewing oil for at least the next week. BP, which leased Deepwater Horizon from TransOcean LTD and is responsible for the spill, is building 74-ton, concrete-and-metal boxes that it hopes to lower into the ocean to capture the leaking oil and siphon it to a barge waiting at the surface. However, this system has never been tried in such deep water before, so it is unclear if it will work. If the boxes do not work, then the well will likely continue gushing for months.

Already, the oil spill is wreaking havoc with the Gulf Coast economy. Over the weekend, federal officials closed more than 6,800 square miles of fishing areas for at least 10 days. Commercial fisherman and shrimpers; seafood producers, processors, and packagers; dock and marina owners; charter boat operators, and any business associated with Gulf Coast tourism faces the possibility of economic devastation if the spill is not contained soon.

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