USA — Coordinator Provides Update on Oil Spill Response

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 pros­the­ses, 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.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)