It just keeps getting worse.
A NOAA scientist has concluded that oil is leaking into the Gulf of Mexico at the rate of 5,000 barrels a day, five times the initial 1,000 per-day estimate. And a third leak was discovered yesterday afternoon.
If the estimates are correct, the spill, which is nearly the size of Jamaica, could match or exceed the 11 million gallons spilt from the Exxon Valdez within two months — becoming the largest oil spill in U.S. history.
The spill could reach the coast of Louisiana as soon as Friday night, putting hundreds of species of coastal wildlife at risk, including birds, fish and marine mammals.
According to the Times-Picayune, the area under threat is one of the most productive fish and wildlife habitats in the world, producing the largest total seafood landings in the lower 48 states, including 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters.
And scientists say this is a critical time for bird life in the region because it is peak nesting and migration times for hundreds of species. Endangered sea turtles are beginning to lay their eggs along beaches in the area and bluefin tuna are spawning right now. Whales, dolphins and sea turtles are also at risk because they could inhale oil when they come to the surface to breathe.
What started with a human tragedy and suspected tragic loss of 11 lives on April 21, now appears to be unfolding into one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history.