New Huge Oil Slick Traced to BP Disaster

Oil surrounds a surfacing Portuguese man-of-war in the waters near South Pass, La. (Carol Guzy/The Washington Post)

New Huge Oil Slick Traced to BP Disaster

Experts concerned well still leaking

An oil slick three miles long and three football fields wide that was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico last month has been traced back to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010, the Coast Guard said Wednesday night.

The reason for the appearance of the new slick, which is currently about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast, was still unknown.

BP and Coast Guard officials said the slick could be residual oil from the Deepwater Horizon wreckage; oil debris left on the seabed from the original spill; or oil emanating from bent piping still on the sea floor.

However, Ian MacDonald, a professor of oceanography at Florida State University and a spill expert, said that the presence of the slick could mean that oil is till leaking from BP's Macondo well, the site of the blowout. "The jury is out here," he said, adding that it was too early "to rule out that this is oil freshly released from the reservoir.

"No one's 100 percent as to where it's coming from," said Frank Csulak, scientific support coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As of Wednesday, there was no plan of action for determining the immediate source. The Coast Guard told the involved companies, BP and Transocean, to come up with a plan but added that the slick "does not pose a risk to the shoreline."

Recently, "tar balls" that had been washing up on the beaches of Alabama en masse in the wake of Hurricane Isaac were also traced back to the same spill, which poured 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killed 11 workers and did untold damage to the ecosystem.

BP is currently haggling with the US Department of Justice over the amount of fines BP will face for the spill, ranging from $5 billion to $25 billion; however, either result will not likely resolve all civil and criminal damages and liabilities arising from the disaster or result in jail time for any of BP's senior management.

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