Deepwater Horizon update

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

State Rep. Matt Gaetz sent out the following update yesterday...

Dear Friends,
I must confess that 3 weeks into my term as State Representative my hope was to be sending you emails about progress made promoting economic freedom and conservative principles. This is an update I never wanted to write.

All evidence suggests that Northwest Florida will see significant ecological and economic impacts from the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Below is a summary of the briefing I received from Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole, along with additional information I have received. Please forward this email to all of your local contacts. It is critical that we communicate real-time, accurate information within our community.

In the coming weeks I will be meeting with community groups to coordinate volunteer activity. I will keep you posted via email. If you have any questions whatsoever, please call my office at 833-9328. We will do our best to find answers. For now, here is what we know:

Volunteers are needed

  • Please visit and sign up to volunteer if you are able.
  • Volunteers are mostly needed to traverse beach areas and identify areas of oil sheen or tar mats. Without identification, mitigation efforts will be significantly hindered. Timing is everything.

  • Immediate On-Shore Conditions
  • Tar balls and oil sheen on Gulf waters will begin appearing in Northwest Florida as soon as Tuesday.
  • Winds that have kept the sheen plum at sea will turn North at this time bringing the impact to shore.
  • Oil "sheen" is different than an oil "slick." A "sheen" is about one millimeter deep which discolors the water and sand. A "slick" is the deep dark crude oil most damaging to wildlife.
  • Not all impact will be linear (West to East). "Breakouts" in the sheen plume may mean that areas to the East will see an impact as soon as or before areas to the West.

    Plans to cap the well
  • The best option is to effectively close the final five pistons (one has already been closed by BP robots).
  • Failing that, BP is currently constructing a "dome" that will be placed over the well area. The dome will include piping that will direct the oil out of Gulf waters.
  • Relief wells are currently being "slant drilled" to cap the well below the surface. This is the ultimate "true" fix, though it may take as long as 8 weeks.

    Challenges with "dome" solution
  • It is expected to take 10 days to 2 weeks
  • It is a temporary solution that will still require the drilling of relief wells
  • A dome has never been put into place nearly one mile into the ocean under these conditions.

    Mitigation efforts underway
  • Skimming, dispersants and open-water burns are currently taking place off shore.
  • Booms are working offshore to corral oil to facilitate ever more burns, though difficult wave action has limited progress.
  • Environmentally sensitive areas are being identified and protected with "booming."
  • Burning and costal dispersants are not planning on being done inshore.

    The "booming" process
  • Each County is being asked to identify environmentally sensitive areas in their Area Contingency Plan. The hope is to have all such areas "boomed" within the next 48 hours.
  • Today, 13,000 feet of boom was put into place.
  • Booming does not stop oil - it merely diverts it at the surface.
  • Currents and rough waves significantly reduce the effectiveness of booming.
  • Booming cannot be done on the Gulf front beaches - only inshore.
  • Currently the booms out in the ocean are failing.
  • Openings to bays and estuaries will be given top priority.
  • Diversion booms have failed at the Pensacola Pass and catchment booms are being installed. The same is likely for the Destin Pass, though there are hopes of leveraging the bridge structures for better results.

  • Impact to Beaches
  • Local beaches will be stained by the oil sheen and will see tar balls
  • Staining can be "solved" with raking and disking
  • Tar balls mostly need to be cleared by hand. BP is paying for tar ball pickup, though additional volunteer efforts are needed.
  • If "tar mats" reach shore, they must be identified before they collect sediment and sink or are covered by more sand.

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