MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER – British Petroleum once downplayed the possibility of a catastrophic accident at an offshore rig that exploded, causing the worst U.S. oil spill in decades along the Gulf Coast and endangering shoreline habitat.
In its 2009 exploration plan and environmental impact analysis for the well, BP suggested it was unlikely, or virtually impossible, for an accident to occur that would lead to a giant crude oil spill and serious damage to beaches, fish and mammals.
At least 1.6 million gallons of oil have spilled so far since the April 20 explosion that killed 11 workers, according to Coast Guard estimates. One expert said Friday that the volume of oil leaking from the well nearly 5,000 feet below the surface could actually be much higher, and that even more may escape if the drilling equipment continues to erode.
“The sort of occurrence that we’ve seen on the Deepwater Horizon is clearly unprecedented,” BP spokesman David Nicholas told The Associated Press on Friday. “It’s something that we have not experienced before … a blowout at this depth.”
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