Crude Awakening

Gulf Coast braces for another round of environmental devastation after deadly explosion triggers a massive oil leak

Above the oily Gulf waters, planes dropped more than 156,000 gal of dispersant into the slick. The proprietary chemical mix acts like soap and breaks down the oil on and below the surface into less harmful molecules. The dispersants have toxic qualities, says Thomas, “but we’ve got to get rid of this oil.”

The week of May 3, favorable winds were keeping most of the oil from reaching land; the estimated size of the oil sheet shrank, to 2,000 sq miles from 3,400 sq miles. The Mississippi’s flow is keeping the spill east of the river mouth, and some scientists worry that the farther south and east the oil moves, the more likely the spill could hit the Gulf Stream and make its way up the East Coast.

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