Coast Guard commander cautiously optimistic about oil spill - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Coast Guard commander cautiously optimistic about oil spill

Oil leaking from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico is visible Thursday near the site where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig collapsed last month (WBRC photo) Oil leaking from a damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico is visible Thursday near the site where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig collapsed last month (WBRC photo)

By Dennis Washington

MOBILE, AL (WBRC) - Capt. Steve Poulin, sector commander for the U.S. Coast Guard in Mobile, was pleased Thursday with the latest oil spill forecasts.

"Based on the recent modeling, I'm very pleased that it's not migrating further north."

Capt. Poulin accompanied FOX6 News and several other media outlets Thursday on a flight to the site in the Gulf of Mexico where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig collapsed last month, killing 11 employees.  Large amounts of oil were visible on the surface surrounding the salvage and recovery vessels at the site, extending northwest for several miles.

"Heavier oil seems to be contained around the well-head site, although migrating west as we've seen landfall all over in the Chandeleurs and the Mississippi Delta area," Poulin said.

Poulin said the latest forecasts from NOAA indicate the oil is not expected to move closer to the Alabama Gulf Coast for at least the next three days.  However, he said the oil could still cause problems out at sea for ships.

"One of the things we're looking at is how sticky is it," Poulin said. "If a ship travels through it, what is the likelihood that the oil will adhere to the ship such that we have to decontaminate the ship before it comes into port. We need to figure that out."

Also visible Thursday morning at the site was the cofferdam, a 70-ton steel funnel that was to be lowered to the leaking oil well Thursday night.  It had been shipped from Louisiana on Wednesday.  BP plans to use the cofferdam to funnel oil leaking from the damaged oil well to cargo ships on the surface.

Poulin said this spill is very different from other major oil spills.

"The oil has to travel a long distance," Poulin said. "As it travels that long distance, it weathers, it evaporates, some of the more toxic properties evaporate out of it. So we expect when it comes ashore, it's going to have lower toxicity. It doesn't mean you should pick it up and eat it, but it's going to have lower toxicity for human health."

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