The US Coast Guard is currently investigating a miles-long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, believed to be a consequence of Hurricane Ida. Divers have located a broken pipeline that may be its source roughly 3 kilometers (2 miles) south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, in the Bay Marchand area of the Gulf of Mexico.
Satellite photos of the spill by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and reviewed by the Associated Press on Wednesday showed telltale black swirls with a rainbow sheen indicative of an oil spill. In the images, the slick appears to drift more than 19 kilometers (12 miles) eastward along the Gulf coast. The spill appeared to be coming from an offshore drilling site, the AP reported.
Now, divers have identified a 30-centimeter (1 foot) broken pipeline, as well as two smaller 10-centimeter (4-inch) pipes that were open and appeared to be abandoned.
The source of the leak was initially thought to be an undersea pipeline owned by Talos Energy, although the Houston-based company disputed this. In a statement issued Sunday night, Talos said the 30-centimeter pipeline does not belong to them. Its statement does not make clear whether oil was coming from the two smaller pipes but images reviewed by AP appear to show at least three oil slicks in the same area. Either way, Talos hired Clean Gulf Associates, a not-for-profit oil spill cooperative, to help contain the spill and identify its source and continues to work with the Coast Guard to find out who owns the damaged pipeline.
Until then, Clean Gulf Associates are working hard to clean up the oil – around 160 liters (42 gallons) have been removed so far the Coast Guard said – and limit further environmental damage.
Fortunately, environmental experts say that local habitats are not immediately at risk, due to the spill’s distance from the coastline.
"Right now, it's moving along the coastal area. It hasn't started moving inshore and contaminating the coastal area, and that's critical to get as much done before it gets all the way to the coastal area," Wilma Subra, a technical advisor at Louisiana Environmental Action Network, told NPR.
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana on August 29, bringing winds of 241 kilometers (150 miles) per hour, and leaving a mass of destruction in its wake. The Mississippi River flowed backward, fossil fuel production was halted – all 11 of the area's offshore rigs were evacuated and over half of the offshore platforms – and almost one million people were left without power. At least 12 people have died.