Sheens of oil atop the Gulf of Mexico have become a depressingly familiar sight — the result of reckless drilling by the oil and gas industry. Here is a photograph shot Wednesday of the latest such debacle. An old natural gas well off Louisiana’s coastline was being sealed shut Monday when it began leaking, 144 feet beneath the water’s surface. This photo is one of a series taken during a flight over the site by On Wings of Care, an environmental nonprofit.

An oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico
On Wings of Care

From On Wings of Care’s blog post:

A badly leaking natural gas well in the Ship Shoal Lease Block #225 of the Gulf of Mexico has spread an ugly, toxic mass of oily rainbow sheen over several square miles not far from the top of Ewing Bank — an area once rich with marine life, especially large plankton feeders and many other species of marine life. We have flown that area in eight different five-to-six-hour wildlife survey flights just within the past three weeks, helping scientists find and study whale sharks. Today, despite mirror-calm seas, excellent water and air visibility, and clear blue water, we saw barely a trace of marine life in this area.

Fuel Fix reports that the well continues to leak a “briny mix” of natural gas, light condensate, and seawater:

Late Wednesday, workers were preparing to begin pumping drilling mud into the well, the first stage in an operation to kill it permanently, 15 years after it last produced gas commercially and four decades after it was drilled.

For much of the day, they were waiting for proof that gas at the platform the well serves had dropped to safe levels so that workers could board the facility. In the meantime, federal regulators and well control specialists waited at a neighboring platform.

The Coast Guard and the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said they plan to conduct an investigation.