Coast Guard, BP investigating reports of oil at Deepwater Horizon site


The U.S. Coast Guard sent a cutter and an helicopter to the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico today after a report of oil at the site, but found no evidence of oil leaking from the well and plans no further investigation, a spokesman said.However, BP also dispatched a vessel to the site Thursday and will lower a remotely operated vehicle to the plugged MC-252 well overnight to determine if any oil is leaking, spokesman Curtis Thomas said.

And an Alabama newspaper is reporting that “fingerprint” testing by Louisiana State University chemists confirms oil it collected at the site on Wednesday matched oil that spilled from the BP well last year.

“We are currently on the scene with a vessel and have no reports of a visible sheen at the site,” said BP’s Thomas. “A second science vessel on site throughout the day also did not see a sheen on the water.

“We are planning to conduct a routine ROV inspection of the Macondo well head tonight to further confirm that there is no release,” he said.

The investigations were triggered by a report of oil near the BP well that was called in to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center on Wednesday afternoon by Ben Raines, a reporter with the Mobile Press-Register.

The Mobile paper reported Thursday that a small amount of oil was bubbling to the surface near the BP site, and that preliminary tests by Louisiana State University chemists indicated it was Louisiana sweet crude, similar to the oil from the BP well.

The report came after similar reports of oil sheen near the BP site by Bonny Schumaker, who operates “On Wings of Care,” which has provided overflights of the Gulf for environmental groups during the past year.

Raines said in an interview that conditions at the site on Wednesday were glassy calm, making it easy to spot the bubbles of oil reaching the surface and creating concentric rings. On Thursday, conditions at the site were choppy, which may have quickly dispersed the oil.

The paper reported online today that further tests by Ed Overton and Scott Miles, chemists at LSU, found the oil matched that flowed from the BP well during the months-long uncontrolled release last year.

Despite that finding, Chief Petty Officer John Edwards said the Coast Guard had no further plans to investigate at the site.

“We responded adequately with both air and surface assets,” Edwards said. “They came back with negative results, and at this point, there’s nothing left for us to do except encourage people — if there are boaters out there, and they see things — to continue to call the National Response Center.”

“We responded last year to over 6,000 Response Center reports,” he said. “Of those, 300-plus were what you would consider mystery sheens, where a sheen is reported with an unknown origin. Once the Coast Guard goes out to investigate, the sheen has dissipated or is no longer in the same location.”

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