BP oil spill: Measures to mitigate wetland damage, stem flow continue

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May 11, 2010 -- As oil continues to gush from the broken well pump in the Gulf of Mexico, efforts to stem the flow and control damage to sensitive wetlands continue.

Yesterday, National Guard helicopters dropped bags of sand onto the shores of Grand Isle, LA, in an effort to fortify the beach against waves of sludge and tar and keep the contamination from reaching marshlands. Further inland, workers pumped fresh water from the Mississippi into the marshes, attempting to repel the oily seawater washing up on shore.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting that winds will push the oil slick westward this week. Choppy waters have so far thwarted oil-skimming and controlled burn efforts.

BP says it will try again this week to stem the flow of oil from the well pipe with another containment box, this one much smaller and designed to deal with the icy conditions one mile below the surface.

The company says it will also try stuffing the well pipe with debris -- such as rubber tire pieces and golf balls -- over the next two weeks. BP says it has spent $350 million so far on cleanup and damage control.

Meanwhile, in Washington, congressional hearings begin today. BP, Transocean and Haliburton officials are expected to provide testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the accident.

At this point, it's being estimated that about 4 million gallons of oil has been spilled. Spewing at a rate of about 210,000 gallons per day, the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf waters could very soon surpass the Exxon Valdez accident, which spilled 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound in March 1989.

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