Steve Phillips views oil spill from Blackhawk helicopter - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Steve Phillips views oil spill from Blackhawk helicopter

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - DMR Director Dr. William Walker wanted to show the media how far the oil slick is from the Mississippi Gulf coast. So, he took a group of local reporters and photographers on a Blackhawk helicopter ride, out into the gulf waters to the site of the broken oil well.

Steve Phillips made the trip for WLOX News.

As we pulled away from the coastline, the un-trained observer may think the large dark patches in the water are oil-related. In fact, they're simply cloud shadows.

We crossed over beautiful Ship Island, which remains un-tainted by any oil.  A line of booms near the southwest corner offers some element of protection.

We had to fly much farther south of the barrier islands before there was any sign of oil. At first, it was a light sheen in the water, a sheen that grows more noticeable as we continue southward.

"And we got into the real edge of the sheen at about 75 miles. And then moved into more emulsified material," said Dr. Walker.

As we drew closer to the well location, the water appears more ominous. Small streams of coffee colored water soon gave way to large rivers of what appears to be an oil and dispersant gumbo.

Sadly, the harmful mix that's scattered about the waters appears almost art-like, with varying shades of colors, reflectance and sheen.

As we approached the actual spill site, more and more vessels were seen working these polluted waters. The large ship with the flame was most noticeable.

"Is the one that actually is withdrawing the material from the hole. And the flare you saw burning was the natural gas that comes up with it burning off. And you saw some boats towing boom that were funneling material into a skimmer vehicle at the end of the booms," said Dr. Walker.

Despite the ongoing work of numerous vessels attempting to mitigate oil leakage at the well site, the mess spreads and floats all around this area of gulf waters.

"My biggest concern is that the oil is still flowing. Still leaking. So fresh product is being provided every day. And as long as that happens, we don't have a finite problem we can get our arms around," said Dr. Walker.

But, if BP can somehow plug the leak and keep the oil at bay.

"If we can keep it 70 miles from Mississippi shores, we'll be happy campers," said Dr. Walker.

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