A second “containment” vessel will increase the amount of oil being captured to as much as 28,000 barrels of oil per day, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said today in what amounted to the first official admission that the quantity of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico exceeds all previous estimates.
If the containment capacity does reach 28,000 barrels of oil simple math shows it will have exceeded the highest estimates of spill flow rate made thus far by either BP or the government. The highest of those estimates have been between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels of oil per day.
Allen said that government scientists have been asked to “re-evaluate” their earlier spill flow estimates.
Labor and community leaders have questioned BP and government figures since the early days of the crisis. Robert “Tiger” Hammond, president of the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, said back in mid-May, “First it was 1,000 gallons, then 5,000, then 20,000 and now who knows how much. There’s no way that you can rely on BP to tell the truth about the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf.”
As oil from the spill contaminated increasing swaths of the Louisiana coastline businesses throughout the area have either shut down or are on their last legs.
With his business ground to a halt, Brad Robin, an oyster fisherman in Ycloskey, La. has had to lay off 50 workers who would now be using his equipment to bring in the seafood.
Jeff Pohlmann, owner of Today’s Ketch, a small seafood restaurant in Chalmette, La. can’t get “the good quality stuff my friends and neighbors have always caught in these waters.” His fear is that his business and his neighbors’ way of life could be ruined forever.
While some business owners like them have received small checks to cover lost wages, for example, most continue to wait for BP to process the larger claims for business losses.
Local claimants say they get friendly voices when they call BP but they don’t get any money.
Curt Eysink, director of the state Workforce Commission, said that of some 6,000 claims paid in Louisiana, only three were larger than $5,000 and none exceeded $10,000. “It is completely unreasonable to assume that these payments are sufficient to sustain affected businesses,” he said.
The White House announced, meanwhile, that President Obama will offer his condolences tonight at the White House to families of the 11 workers killed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded two months ago.
“They were the very first victims of what is a very long and sad tragedy,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “It has changed the lives of many. It has changed the lives of those 11 families. It will do untold economic and environmental damage. It’s the largest disaster this country has ever seen. They are not – they’re certainly not forgotten.”
On another front, the oil spill’s effect on wildlife is also increasing.
In just five days, the rescue center at Fort Jackson has received more than five times as many oiled birds as it received in the previous six weeks since the oil spill began.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said yesterday that the Louisiana center has reported 415 birds since the BP well exploded in April. All but 66 of those were reported since last Thursday. Since the start of the spill crews have found 633 dead birds, many of them visibly oiled. 32 sea turtles have been rescued.
Photo: In undated photo Karl Kleppinger holds his 2-year-old niece Kaitlyn Hartley in McComb, Miss. He is among the 11 killed when the oil rig exploded. (AP photo courtesy of the victim’s family)