It will take years to completely clean up the damage from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s response manager for the oil disaster, said Monday.
“Dealing with the oil spill on the surface is going to go on for a couple of months. After that it’ll be taken care of,” Allen said in response to a reporter’s question at a White House briefing. “I agree with you, long-term issues of restoring the environment and the habitats and stuff will be years.”
The total amount of crude being collected from the ruptured undersea well responsible for the disaster increased Sunday to roughly 466,000 gallons — or 11,100 barrels — according to estimates from BP and Allen.
On Saturday, BP indicated it had increased the amount of crude being funneled to the surface to roughly 441,000 gallons. The oil is being funneled from a containment cap installed on the well to a drilling ship on the ocean surface.
Federal authorities estimate that 798,000 gallons of crude have been gushing into the sea every day.
Since the containment cap was installed on Friday, the total number of gallons of oil being captured on a daily basis has nearly doubled, Allen said Monday.
BP “anticipates moving another craft” to the well site shortly in order to raise the capacity of oil that could be captured on a daily basis to roughly 840,000 gallons, or 20,000 barrels, he said.
“In the long run, [BP] is also looking at bringing larger production vessels in, create a more permanent connection that can be disconnected easily in case we have a hurricane or bad weather later on in the hurricane season,” Allen noted. “And we’ll continue to optimize the production out of the well to contain it.”
President Obama, who was briefed by Allen on Monday, later warned that “even if we are successful in containing some or much” of the oil, the problem of the leak will not be solved until a relief well is completed — a process that will take “several months.”
The president also expressed concern for the health of workers now trying to clean up the spill. Scientists are “not seeing huge elevations of toxins in the air or on the water” near shore, he said. “But that may not be the case out where people are actually doing the work.”
The EPA will continue to constantly monitor air and water quality, as well as check toxin levels in seafood from the Gulf, he said. “This is a resilient ecosystem” and there are “resilient people” in the Gulf, he asserted. “They’re going to bounce back.”
Farther south, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce opened shop on the bayou Monday morning, holding a hearing in Chalmette, Louisiana. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations was slated to hold a field hearing on “Local Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” near ground zero for the growing disaster.
Also Monday, Carol Browner, the president’s assistant for energy and climate change, hosted a video chat to answer questions from the public about the oil disaster.
The expanding government response comes as the effects of the gusher are spreading along the Gulf Coast. Dead wildlife has now been reported in the region. Allen said Monday that roughly 120 linear miles of coastline in the Gulf have now been affected by the spill.
(Read More: CNN)