Project Management

The Oil Disaster (Part 1)

Bob Weinstein is a journalist who covers technology, project management, the workplace and career development.

The unfolding April 20 British Petroleum oil spill--dubbed “oilpocalypse” by one observer--has mushroomed into an environmental nightmare with far-reaching repercussions that have yet to be fully understood. The spill, which at its peak gushed more than 210,000 gallons of oil each day, was five times bigger than the company projected.

Despite years of responding to major oil spills, the experts still don’t know what to do once oil is in the water. That’s according to Mahlon “Chuck” Kennicutt II, a professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University and president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Kennicutt was one of the members of the team that assisted in the natural resource damage assessment after the Exxon Valdez spill.

“Spills are difficult to respond to, at many levels--from controlling them, cleaning up after them, trying to prevent them from damaging sensitive ecosystems, communicating effectively with the public about the true extent of the damage, assigning responsibility for the inevitable damage claims, not to mention the financial costs,” he said. “There is no such thing as an ‘easy’ oil spill to clean up once it exceeds a few thousand gallons. Exxon spent more than $2 billion in cleanup costs during the Valdez incident, so you can estimate the potential monies involved …

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