HOUSTON -- Leaked crude oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig explosion and oil spill has resurfaced in the Gulf of Mexico, the federal government reported yesterday.
In a notice posted on its RestoreTheGulf.gov website late last night, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator (FOSC) for the Macondo well spill cleanup operation said an oil sheen discovered on the water surface near the spill site matches oil that gushed out of that ill-fated offshore well, in what became the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
The sheen was first spotted on Sept. 16, and the Coast Guard has been investigating it ever since. Roughly 1 million barrels of crude oil leaks naturally into the Gulf's waters each day, and natural oil sheens are a common occurrence, a fact that might have tempered government and media responses to the initial reports of the sheen.
But the FOSC reports that the Coast Guard has determined that crude oil samples tested at its Marine Safety Lab in New London, Conn., "indicate the sheen correlates to oil that originated from BP's Macondo well."
The government is cautioning that the discovery doesn't mean that the well is still releasing oil into the environment. They theorize that the sheen could be a surfacing of residual crude oil left over from the deadly 2010 well blowout.
"The exact source of the sheen is uncertain at this time but could be a residual oil associated with wreckage and/or debris left on the seabed from the Deepwater Horizon incident in 2010," the FOSC said.
In the notice, government representatives say they have informed both BP PLC, the operator of the Macondo well, and Deepwater Horizon rig owner Transocean of the results of their testing. The two companies have also been put on notice that they may be financially liable for the costs associated with cleaning up the oil sheen.
Still, the government says the oil sheen currently poses no immediate risk to the nearby coastal Louisiana environment.
"The sheen is not feasible to recover and does not pose a risk to the shoreline," FOSC said.
Roughly 5 million barrels of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the loss of well control and blowout at Macondo. Eleven rig workers lost their lives in that accident.