Gulf Struggles to Regain Footing 6 Months Later

Oil from the Gulf disaster covers boots worn by P.J. Hahn, Director of Coastal Zone Management in Plaquemines Parish, October 2010. P.J. Hahn October, 2010

Six months ago Wednesday night, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Nearly 206 million gallons leaked from BP's well. The company has already paid about $3 billion in claims and is on the hook for at least $17 billion more.

While the crisis no longer dominates the headlines, it hasn't entirely faded away, CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

Six months later, cleanup crews were still sucking up oil in Louisiana's Bay Jimmy, proof the BP spill is still news to Ron Price, a charter fishing boat captain.

"My big worry is, you know, when they do leave?" Price asked. "We're sitting here with no customers coming in. Where is my next check coming from?"

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Back in April, no one could have predicted an oil spill 19 times worse than the Exxon Valdez. To date, more than 154 million gallons has been burned, skimmed, captured or dispersed on its own, representing about 75 percent of the total spill.

"The entire Gulf of Mexico was a hot spot, so now we're dealing with what I call hot spots where we have heavy oil, moderate oil and light oil," Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Zukunft said.

Hot spots like Gulf Shores, Ala., where the mayor's given BP until February 2011 to clean up the beaches. But to whose satisfaction?

"We're not capable of deciding that and neither is BP," Mayor Robert Craft said.

Conflicting standards, they're the issue with this continuing cleanup, and six months later, with the region's economic recovery, who deserves BP compensation and how much?

BP's Victims Fund: Kenneth Feinberg's Tough Task

Still shut down: new deepwater oil and gas exploration, more than 16,000 square miles of federal fishing waters.

Gulf Drilling Ban Ends; When Will Jobs Return?
White House Lifts Deepwater Drilling Ban

And Gulf seafood has a lingering stigma.

"Shrimp is hard to move right now," said commercial fisherman Travis Latapie. "The prices are not good."

Back in May, Price predicted this spill would be his doomsday.

"This is like someone slicing your throat," he said then.

Now he admits doomsday was an exaggeration.

"Six months later, it's just so different than I think we all forecasted," Price said.

Here in the Gulf, the spill's economic and environmental impact is still unfolding.

"We've taken a serious hit," said Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Federation. "We'll not know for a few years exactly how deep or how long that damage will run."

On most of the Gulf Coast, the oil's gone but not the stain.
  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann was named CBS News Transportation correspondent in August 2011. He has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001, and is based in the Atlanta bureau.

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