US & Canada

Tackling the slick from Gulf of Mexico oil leak

Emergency teams are using several methods in attempts to deal with the oil at the surface, which has closed 75,920 sq miles (1.96m sq km) of the Gulf of Mexico to fishing.

More than 1,700 vessels, including skimmers, tugs, barges and recovery vessels, are being used.

Skimmers, which skate over the water, brushing up the oil are also being employed and more than 13.8 million gallons of oil-water mix have been removed.

Around 371 miles of floating boom are being used as part of the efforts to stop oil reaching the coast. A US charity is even making booms out of nylon tights, animal fur and human hair.

Image caption Miles of booms are being used to stop oil reaching the shore

Hair donations have been sent from around the world to help make the special booms, which will be laid on beaches to soak up any oil that washes ashore.

Dispersant chemicals, rather like soap, are being sprayed from ships and aircraft in an effort to help break down the oil - which is also degraded by wind and waves.

Burning is another method used to tackle oil spills - although it can be tricky to carry out and has associated environmental risks such as toxic smoke.

More than 120 controlled burns have been conducted, which is said to have removed a total of more than 2.8 million gallons of oil from the open water in an effort to protect shoreline and wildlife.

New underwater technology aimed at stopping crude oil rising to the surface at the site of the leak has had some success.

SAND BARRIERS

Meanwhile, BP said it would pay for the construction of six sand barriers - or berms - off the coast of the US state of Louisiana.

The barriers are designed to protect fragile wetlands from the huge oil slick that has leaked from the well.

  • Aim is to prevent oil reaching the Louisiana coastline by bolstering the islands to the east and west of the Mississippi delta which already provide some natural protection
  • Sand is dredged from "borrow points" in the Gulf of Mexico near the islands
  • It is then dumped on the seaward side of the islands and flattened
  • The entire proposed barrier would run for 128 miles (206km) and require 78 million cubic metres of sand
  • At present six sections, totalling 50 miles (80km), have been approved for construction

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