Gulf oil slick to be burned

2010-05-05 22:17

New Orleans - Crews were preparing on Wednesday to conduct a controlled burn of the Gulf of Mexico oil slick, saying favourable weather had returned allowing the bid to protect the southeastern US coastline.

"No populated areas are expected to be affected by the controlled burn operations and there are no anticipated impacts to marine mammals and sea turtles," said a statement from the Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Centre (DHICIC), who are co-ordinating the response to the spill.

Officials last tried a controlled burn on April 28, where a part of the slick was set alight and allowed to burn for approximately 28 minutes, which DHICIC said had successfully removed thousands of gallons of oil.

"In order to ensure safety, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continuously monitor air quality and burning will be halted if safety standards cannot be maintained," the statement said.

If estimates are correct, some 9.5 million litres of crude have entered the sea since the BP-leased platform sank on April 22, after the initial explosion killed 11 workers.

The deep leaks have been gushing oil at a rate at some 5 000 barrels, or 795 000 litres, a day.

The spill has sparked fears of an environmental catastrophe as the region boasts 40% of US wetlands - prime spawning waters for fish, shrimp and crabs and a major stop for migratory birds.