Government nearly reopened oil spill

AP reports:

The cap that eventually stopped the oil from flowing was nearly pulled about a day after it was installed in mid-July because pressure readings looked so low that they indicated a leak elsewhere in the system. BP wanted the cap left in place and the well to stay shut, but government science advisers were firm and near unanimous in wanting the cap removed because of fear of a bigger, more catastrophic spill, the report said. . .

Before the cap was put in place, officials had established pressure levels that would tell them whether everything was OK, there was trouble and the cap had to be removed immediately, or whether it was a wait-and-see situation. The pressure readings were in the wait-and-see zone, but political appointees discussed it further and there was a push to remove the cap. Coast Guard Admiral Kevin Cook urged officials to give the cap more time, then Hsieh’s analysis swayed them.

To Paul Fischbeck, a professor of decision science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, this part of the report was scary.

“It became a political decision that they didn’t want to risk having this big blowout,” said Fischbeck, who wasn’t part of the commission. “You set up a logical reasonable process and in the heat of the moment all these factors creep in and it pulls you off what you had logically decided to do. And that is very dangerous when it happens.”

The disaster was averted by one scientist who took a cell-phone picture of the pressure readings and sent it to a colleague for advice.

(Previous post.)

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