BP Gulf relief work resumes

The dissipation of Tropical
Depression Five in the Gulf of Mexico means that preparations are being made to
resume drilling of a relief well intended to permanently seal BP’s ruptured
deepwater oil well.

The Development Driller III, the
rig that is drilling the relief well, is cleaning the area out ahead of
drilling the remaining 30 to 50 feet to reach the Macondo well, BP spokesman
Robert Wine said.

Officials said they were looking at
announcing a permanent kill, weather permitting, by the end of next week.

The well erupted after a 20 April
explosion aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon that left 11 men dead. A
temporary cap contained the spill on 15 July and nearly 3,000 barrels of heavy
drilling mud and cement drove the well back into the ocean floor last week
through a process called a “static kill.”

The well gushed an estimated 53,000
barrels (nearly 2.3 million gallons) of oil per day before it was capped. Since
then, fresh, green grass has begun growing again in some of the hardest-hit
marshes of southern Louisiana, but oil continues to wash ashore in places.

Some of the environmental damage
appears to have abated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
reopened 5,144 square miles of Gulf waters this week for commercial and
recreational fishers to catch finfish, saying that since 3 July its data have
shown no oil in the area. Coast Guard observers flying over the area in the
past 30 days also have not observed any oil. In addition, NOAA said fish caught
in the area and tested by NOAA experts have shown no signs of contamination.

The closed area now covers 52,395
miles, or 22 per cent of the federal waters in the Gulf, down from 37 per cent
at its peak, NOAA said.

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