Bonnie disrupts oil cleanupJul 30th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: news
For the most part, Bonnie turned out to be the kind of tropical storm people in Coastal Louisiana always hope for. It weakened, then fizzled, and finally disappeared.
But despite Bonnie’s collapse, the threat of a storm was enough to bring oil spill response efforts largely to a halt over the weekend.
With Tropical Storm Bonnie gaining strength as it crossed over the Bahamas and Southern Florida late last week, and with most forecast models bringing the storm right over the damaged BP oil well, Coast Guard leaders decided to send all vessels and cleanup equipment to higher ground. And that didn’t sit well with many local and state leaders, who feared the evacuation of assets could translate into a partial stand down of cleanup efforts.
“Do I think it was an excuse to get equipment out that wasn’t coming back? Absolutely,” Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser said of the equipment evacuation.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said the asset evacuation plan has been a work-in-progress for weeks. The original plan called for cleanup equipment to be removed to Memphis, Jindal said. A revised plan then called for equipment to go to Gonzales. As Bonnie approached, though, BP, Coast Guard and local government officials hammered out plans to keep each parish’s assets in that particular parish.
Jindal said the last minute disagreement was just the latest in a string concerning signals from BP.
“There are a number of troubling signals that seem to indicate they may be beginning to think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Jindal said. “We don’t want to prematurely declare ‘mission accomplished.’”
Despite those fears, BP and the Coast Guard quickly began returning assets back to staging areas over the weekend as Bonnie dissipated and the seas calmed. By Sunday, work had already resumed on the crucial relief wells.
Incident Commander Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen also reported Sunday that Coast Guard surveillance flights had spotted oil near the Chandeleur and Breton Sounds that had been pushed inland by Bonnie’s northerly winds. The Coast Guard was working to get equipment back in place to begin collecting the oil.
Overall, the halt as a result of Bonnie could delay plugging the well by one to two weeks.