Final stretch of Gulf coast removed from active cleanup status

The active search for Deepwater Horizon oil along the Gulf Coast ended Tuesday, when the final three miles of shoreline in Louisiana were removed from active cleanup status, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Florida, Alabama and Mississippi were taken off active response in June. The final three miles in Louisiana will join 4,375 miles across the Gulf Coast that have moved into what the U.S. Coast Guard calls a “middle response.”

Middle response means any oil found will be reported through normal channels at the National Response Center, but it includes the addition of Coast Guard teams dedicated to responding to any reports of Deepwater Horizon oil and oil spill removal crews who can respond if oil is found.

As of April, 91 million pounds of oily material have been taken out of Louisiana shorelines since the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon drill rig explosion, the U.S. Coast Guard reported.

The number of pounds collected can give a misleading picture since about 80 to 90 percent of that weight is made up of sand, shell and water. It’s still by far the largest amount found along the four coastal states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The disparity continues this year where so far a total of 29,000 pounds of oiled material has been collected in the four states with about 26,000 of that coming from Louisiana shores.

“The response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will continue for some time, the federal on-scene coordinator will continue to utilize scientific response data, including residual oil recovery rates and locations, as well as weather event activities to inform decisions directing cleanup operations,” wrote Michael Anderson, public affairs officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.

For example, after Tropical Storm Karen last year, the U.S. Coast Guard took a post-storm look for oiled material, which led to the discovery of submerged tar mats on Elmer’s Island where oil had settled in 2010 and been covered with sand. In total, about three million pounds of oily material was cleaned up after the storm and the tar mat discovery, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Earlier in the year, the U.S. Coast Guard used augers to dig thousands of holes in Louisiana beaches to look for additional submerged oil. The effort helped find and remove about 2.6 million pounds of oily material between Jan. 5 and June 30 last year, Anderson said.