Current timeline to shut down Gulf of Mexico oil spill: three months
Federal officials gave a sobering appraisal of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill Sunday, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar saying 'ultimate relief' was 90 days away.
In Pictures Louisiana oil spill
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The officials, who run the agencies charged with mitigating the impact of the spill on America’s Gulf coast, used unusually stark words to describe the situation and the difficulties of the remedy.
Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen called the bid to shut down a wellhead spewing at least 210,000 gallons of oil a day from nearly a mile beneath the ocean surface “one of the most complex things we’ve ever done.”
He went on to say that, in a worst-case scenario, the well could vent 4.2 million gallons of oil into the Gulf daily. Currently, a crumpled “riser” pipe is preventing the full flow of oil – like a kinked garden hose – though reports suggest it is gradually deteriorating.
The comments were prelude to President Obama arriving in Louisiana Sunday to assess the situation.
How to shut down the well?
Both the comments and Mr. Obama’s impromptu visit suggest that the White House is trying to head off the criticisms that befell the Bush administration after hurricane Katrina – that it was slow to engage federal agencies.
Yet they also gave the impression of a government facing a challenge of such complexity and enormity that it was not sure what, really, could be done to shut down the source of the disaster in the short term.
“The spill is indeterminate,” said Allen on CNN’s “State of the Union.”