Tempers Flare in Gulf as BP Burns Oil

At a joint command center in Houma, La., oil spill response coordinators watch controlled burns of surface oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fifty-one days into coastal Louisiana's disaster from the millions of gallons of oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, people have stopped asking for answers and started demanding them.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

Throughout the length of the disastrous oil spill, local leaders have had the same complaints about BP: a lack of timely answers, leadership or spirit of cooperation. With oil on their shores every day now, they've had it, CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports.

"They need some oversight, and someone needs to come in and take over the situation," said Louisianan Kindra Arnesen. "They're not doing their job."

At a joint command center in Houma, La., Coast Guard Capt. Meredith Austin and other coordinators watched controlled burns of surface oil in the Gulf.

It looks like a terrible battlefield with almost four million gallons burned so far.

"We are running the war from here," Austin said.

In another battle to capture more leaking oil, by early next week, a second BP riser pipe will funnel oil to a mobile rig, which will burn it.

BP's oil collection could spike to 28,000 barrels a day.

So much oil has already bled into Baritaria Bay, which accounts for almost 30 percent of Louisiana's fishing revenues. As the spill expands, one wildlife rescue center says it's treating more than 350 birds covered in oil since last Thursday.

With all this oil, no one's fishing in some of America's premier fishing waters. The oil clings to anything it touches, and from the long-term consequences on wildlife or wetlands, no one knows what to expect.

Wally Fulweiler leads a research team studying oil in the soil of coastal marshland.

"Clearly it's going to completely change how the sediments breathe, but we don't know how," said Fulweiler. "I can't imagine that that's good for what we normally have going on here … It's depressing, makes me kind of sick actually."

More Oil Spill Coverage

How Much Oil is Really Leaking Into the Gulf?
BP Given 72 Hours to Develop Better Plan
Shrimper Douses Herself With Oil in Spill Protest
Philippe Cousteau "Disappointed" in Media Coverage of Oil Spill
Brother of Killed Oil Rig Worker: BP Never Called

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.