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Brown pelican covered in oil struggles on an oil-stained beach in Louisiana A brown pelican covered in oil struggles on a beach in Louisiana. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Finally, Some Progress in Tragic Oil Spill

Cap slows the flow of oil pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, as the toll on wildlife continues to rise

By Laura Leigh Davidson | null null , null
TOP: President Barack Obama looks at tar that's washed ashore during his visit to Louisiana (Chuck Kennedy/White House/Sipa Press); BOTTOM: Map of the spreading oil (Jim McMahon)
TOP: President Barack Obama looks at tar that's washed ashore during his visit to Louisiana (Chuck Kennedy/White House/Sipa Press); BOTTOM: Map of the spreading oil (Jim McMahon)

There has finally been some success in containing the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet the effects of the spill continue to devastate the wildlife of the delicate marshlands of Louisiana.

A significant portion of the oil that had been spewing freely into the ocean is now being captured and funneled to oil tankers (ships that store and carry oil) on the surface.

Over the last three days, roughly 700,000 gallons of oil have been sucked through a special cap engineers fastened to the leaking pipe. The oil is being funneled through a system of hoses attached to the cap and sent to the tankers above.

Containment Is Limited

But the new containment system will never be able to catch all of the oil that is escaping from the busted well. The U.S. government estimates that between 500,000 and 1 million gallons are gushing from the ocean floor each day. That is more than the temporary cap will be able to capture from the leak.

BP has said its best chance of permanently plugging the leak is the "relief wells" it has been digging since May 2. But it will be no earlier than August before those relief wells are completed.

U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen said on Sunday that the cleanup and containment of the environmental disaster would last at least into the fall of this year. At least 30 million gallons of oil have been spilled into Gulf waters since the April 20 oil rig explosion that killed 11 people.

High Cost to Wildlife, Jobs

The spill is taking a devastating toll on the delicate marshlands of Louisiana. More than a thousand oil-covered birds have been reported dead along the Gulf Coast, mostly in that state. Rescue workers are ramping up efforts to get struggling pelicans and other crude-soaked animals to rescue stations, where they can be washed and cared for. The number of dolphins, sea turtles, and other water dwellers washing lifeless onto beaches is increasing.

People who make their living in the area's fishing industry are out of work because of the effect of the spill on marine life. One third of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico have been closed to fishing because shrimp, oysters, and other seafood could be poisoned by the oil that now pollutes their habitats.

Tourism, another important industry throughout the Gulf, is taking a hit too. Over the weekend, beachgoers in Alabama left the surf covered in brown, sticky ooze. Tar balls began washing up on the white sands in Florida's Panhandle region on Saturday.

A Third Visit From the President

President Barack Obama heard the frustrations of many Gulf residents in person during his trip to Louisiana on Friday. This is his third trip to the region since the oil-spill disaster began.

The President recorded his weekly address to the nation during his visit to Grand Isle, Louisiana. Obama once again pledged his support for the Gulf Coast and said he is fully committed to cleaning up the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

"It's brutally unfair. It's wrong," he said. "And what I told these men and women—and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster—is that I'm going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole."


Scholastic News Online has been tracking the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Click here for a collection of news stories, video, a kids' poll, and other resources that will grow as the events of this environmental disaster unfold.


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