Coordinator Provides Update on Oil Spill Response
By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 18, 2010 Nearly a month has passed since the explosion and fire aboard the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon began a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and more than 20,000 federal, state and local government personnel continue to work together to find a solution.
“There are many agencies involved,” Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said in a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable yesterday, “but the national good that comes from this, and what you can bring together to respond to it, is quite remarkable and demonstrates the capabilities that we have in this country.”
Landry is the federal on-scene coordinator for the oil spill response. She commands the 8th Coast Guard District with headquarters in New Orleans, and is responsible for Coast Guard operations covering 26 states and waterways, including the Gulf Coast.
In the roundtable, Landry discussed the ongoing response efforts and provided an operational update on the status of work to secure the well, fight the spill offshore, protect the coast and minimize effects on the environment and local economy.
All of the federal, local and state agencies and private-sector entities involved in the effort are integrating their data to derive the most effective response, Landry said, citing the ongoing monitoring of the water column in the Gulf of Mexico as an example.
“We are doing a very strict monitoring protocol right now,” she said. “There are samples being taken through the water column, on the surface. They are using all of the technologies that are necessary to examine the impact that this is going to have.”
Resources are coming from many different agencies, Landry said, in response to the oil spill incident, while still paying close attention not only to what is going on there, but also in other parts of the gulf.
“This is absolutely the national good that I talk about that is taking place simultaneously with this response,” Landry said. “We have an opportunity here to respond to what we have and prepare for a worst-case scenario, but at the same time develop processes, systems and integration that can serve the larger national good when this is all over.”
The Coast Guard and all of the other agencies involved are using all the technologies available to examine the impact the oil spill is going to have, Landry said, and near-term and long-term studies will follow.
“We are committed to doing a good job here,” the admiral said. “We have to secure the well, fight the spill offshore, protect the coast and minimize impacts on the environment and local economy.”
Research and development teams are testing new developments, Landry said, and the Coast Guard is working with agencies such as NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Civil Air Patrol to provide data to the different groups working on the response.
In addition, she noted, all agencies involved are trying to be as transparent as possible, updating their websites and releasing information to the public. “If we have information, we will share it with you,” she told the bloggers and journalists participating in the conference call.
One of the main focuses of the effort, Landry said, is being aggressive to mitigate the spill’s impact. “The people working in the command post are very passionate about their work,” she said.
To date, about 6.6 million gallons of an oil-water mix have been recovered. More than 1.3 million feet of containment boom and 400,000 feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill, according to the Deepwater Horizon Response website.
Landry expressed her personal concern about the environment, the people, fisherman and the ecosystem that the oil spill has affected. “I’ve lived in New Orleans a year,” she said. “What’s most on my mind is the Gulf Coast community has been impacted a lot.”
Although the people in the area are resilient, Landry said, there is only so much these communities can take, so she wants people to feel confident that as much is being done as possible to protect the shorelines and the coast.
“We have had very minimal shoreline impact to date, and have had very good impact fighting this off shore to date,” she said. Seventeen staging areas are in place and ready to protect sensitive shorelines, she said, in parts of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Although the Coast Guard is using all the resources it can in this effort, Landry explained in response to a question, none of the resources being used in this response have left other places vulnerable.
“As you try to sustain a massive effort like this,” she said, “we still have to get on with the rest of the country’s business.”