Hurricane Ida carved a path of destruction on the US East Coast after it made landfall. The hurricane did not just ravage the land. Early reports indicate that Ida also left several oil spills in its wake.
Photos from satellites of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) managed to capture evidence of an underwater oil spill 3 km away from Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The source of the oil spill has not yet been conclusively identified.
The hurricane was the fifth strongest to hit the US mainland and resulted in over a million residents of Louisiana being left without any power, with a significant portion still in the dark. The economic fallout from the tropical storm can be over $95 billion as a result of damage to infrastructure.
The US Coast Guard said clean-up crews were already on their way to process, mitigate and neutralise spill, even as the slick appears to be growing. According to the Coast Guard, the spill is thought to be located in Bay Marchand area of the Gulf of Mexico, and leaking out of a crude oil undersea pipeline owned by Talos Energy. The Houston-based oil and gas company has already hired Clean Gulf Associates to respond to the spillage, even though it maintained that it was not responsible for the spill.
Clean Gulf Associates has already set up containment boom tubes and skimming ships are in the area to start picking up the oil from the surface of the water. Divers will also be heading into the water in order to locate the source of the leak.
“Talos will continue to work closely with the US Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to identify the source of the release and coordinate a successful response,” the company’s statement said.
“The company’s top priorities are the safety of all personnel and the protection of the public and environment.”
While the spill is ongoing until the source is found, environmental damage from this particular leak may be minimal. The spill is far enough out at sea to not immediately threaten the coastal sea life. However, if it moves closer to the coast, it can quickly turn into an ecological disaster, affecting the livelihoods of people relying on the marine life.
"Right now, it's moving along the coastal area. It hasn't started moving inshore and contaminating the coastal area, and that's critical to get as much done before it gets all the way to the coastal area," Wilma Subra, a technical advisor at Louisiana Environmental Action Network, told NPR.
Unfortunately, this spill is only one of many that are being reported to the US Coast Guard. The region in Louisiana is a major centre of the petrochemical industry and several pipelines, refineries and manufacturers have had their premises in the area. Nearly 88 percent of the region’s offshore oil production remains shuttered, with over 100 platforms currently not in operation. Phillips 66 Alliance Refinery, located along the Mississippi River to the south of New Orleans was another source of a leak, and there might be others that are yet to be identified. The Coast Guard is investigating over 350 reports of oil spills in the area.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)