Sea snot, tar balls, and designated oiled carcass holding locations are just a few of the many appalling and lingering consequences of the failure of BP’s Macondo well in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The catastrophe began on April 20, 2010 when the well’s blowout preventer failed and caused a fiery explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon, the oil rig owned by Transocean and leased and operated by BP. The accident killed eleven rig workers and led to the largest oil spill in American history. Plugging the well took three months plus an additional two months to kill the well. Called an unprecedented environmental disaster by some and the Crime of the Century by others, BP’s oil spill resulted in an estimated total discharge of 4.9 million barrels (205.8 million gallons) of oil, largely unmitigated, into the Gulf of Mexico. While the precise cause of the well’s failure is still unknown, what has become evident is that the drilling plans for BP’s broken well never underwent full environmental review – a review that could have helped prepare the company and local and federal governments for such an eventual catastrophe.
Smoke plumes from spill-response crews gathering and burning oil in the Gulf of Mexico near the site of the leaking Macondo well. Photo taken June 22, 2010. Photo credit to Dr. Oscar Garcia / Florida State University.