News / USA

More Oil Captured from Spill in Gulf of Mexico, But BP Well Still Leaks

Oil off the coast of Louisiana
Oil off the coast of Louisiana

The Obama administration says the effort to contain the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is making progress, with more oil captured each day. But oil continues to escape from the leaking well, and clean up will take years, and no one really knows what the future holds.

These are the signs that pull at the heart.  Baby pelicans rescued from the oil.  Scientists say they cry for their parents.

Workers from the International Bird Rescue Center hold their beaks and soak the birds in vegetable oil.

"We use some kind of light oil that we heat up and we actually work it into the oily feathers.  It loosens the oil up," said Jay Holcomb from the International Bird Rescue Research Center.

Then they bathe the birds with dishwashing liquid. A tooth brush is used around the eyes to protect them from the suds. Then the little ones go under the blow dryer.

"They are so happy once they're de-oiled and it actually makes you feel pretty good that this part of the operation is being done to save these animals," said Mary Dwyer - a volunteer.

Off the coast of Louisiana, thick patches of goopy oil.  Scientists have now found oil suspended in the water down to 1,000 meters.  The Coast Guard says the cap now allows the collection of about 15,000 barrels a day - an increase of about 4,000 barrels from Monday.  But three of the four vents remain open, still spewing thousands of barrels of oil to the surface.

"The reason those vents have not been closed yet are two reasons," said Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen. "To prohibit the buildup of hydrates and something called chatter.  If you get too much pressure in just the oil, everything moving around, they could dislodge the cap."

The spill may be occurring along the Gulf coast of the United States, but experts say it is an international problem.  Celine Cousteau is the granddaughter of world renown ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

"Whatever it is that happens in the oceans, happens to all of us," said Celine Cousteau. "A lot of our food resources come from our oceans. Those are going to be impacted.  Yes, it's an international issue. Not only that, it doesn't mean that because it happens in the United States it can't happen elsewhere."

As for longterm effects, scientists are trying to answer unending questions, but have few answers:

About drinking water contamination?

"That will be something we won't know until the event occurs," said Robert Twilley, from Lousiana State University.

About 4,000 - year-old corals?

We don't know how much oil is down there," said Thomas Shirley, from Harte Research Institute.

"And that's the prevailing comment.  The U.S. - the world - has never experienced a spill this enormous, this deep.  So, the scientists say no one can really predict the future of the ocean.  Or, the living creatures that rely on it.  

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters. She has also won numerous Associated Press TV, Radio, and Multimedia awards, as well as a Clarion for her TV coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, Google Glass & Other Wearables, and the 9/11 Anniversary.

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