Washington, May 14 (ANI): If efforts fail to cap the leaking Deepwater Horizon wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico oil could gush for years-poisoning coastal habitats for decades, experts say.
Last week the joint federal-industry task force charged with managing the spill tried unsuccessfully to lower a 93-ton containment dome over one of three ruptures in the rig's downed pipe.
Crystals of methane hydrates in the freezing depths clogged an opening on the box, preventing it from funneling the spouting oil up to a waiting ship. The scientists seem to be running out of alternatives, National Geographic reports.We don't have any idea how to stop this," Matthew Simmons, retired chair of the energy-industry investment banking firm Simmons and Company International said of the Gulf leak.
Some of the proposed strategies-such as temporarily plugging the leaking pipe with a jet of golf balls and other material-are a "joke," he added.
"We really are in unprecedented waters," he said
If the oil can't be stopped, the underground reservoir may continue bleeding until it's dry, Simmons suggested.
The most recent estimates are that the leaking wellhead has been spewing 5,000 barrels (210,000 gallons, or 795,000 liters) of oil a day.
And the oil is still flowing robustly, which suggests that the reserve would take years to deplete.
At that rate, it's possible the Gulf oil spill's damage to the environment will have lingering effects akin to those of the largest oil spill in history, which happened in Saudi Arabia in 1991, said Miles Hayes, co-founder of the science-and-technology consulting firm Research Planning, Inc., based in South Carolina.
Up to 89 percent of the Saudi marshes and 71 percent of the mud flats had not bounced back after 12 years, the team discovered.
"It was amazing to stand there and look across what used to be a salt marsh and it was all dead-not even a live crab," Hayes said.
There could be similar devastation in US Gulf Coast marshes.
As the nurseries for much of the sea life in the Gulf of Mexico, coastal marshes are vital to the ecosystem and the U.S. seafood industry.
"Once it gets in there, we're not getting it out," said Hayes.
"We have to hope for the best," says Simmons, "but plan for the worst." (ANI)