The Deepwater Horizon disaster is the most massive oil spill ever to have fouled the world's oceans, according to US scientists in what they call the most accurate estimate to date. The latest report states that 4.9 million barrels of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's busted well before it was capped last month, putting the Mexican Ixtoc disaster of 1979 into second place.
"We’ve never had a spill of this magnitude in the deep ocean,” a Florida State University oceanographer tells the New York Times. “These things reverberate through the ecosystem,” he said. “It is an ecological echo chamber, and I think we’ll be hearing the echoes of this, ecologically, for the rest of my life." BP, which is continuing efforts to permanently seal the well, is liable for fines of $1,100 per barrel under the Clean Water Act. That will rise to $4,300 if investigators find gross negligence caused the spill, potentially leaving BP on the hook for $21 billion.