Two NOAA scientists were asked why the federal government waited 14 years to conduct a study of an oil spill that started in the Gulf of Mexico in 2004. They didn't know, reports the Washington Post, but as the ones asked to do the study they could put a figure on what's still pouring out of the site all this time later: as many as 4,578 gallons daily. The oil platform was located in an underwater canyon some 12 miles from Louisiana and leased by the Taylor Energy Company—which claims just 3 gallons are seeping out daily. Monster waves churned up by Hurricane Ivan on Sept. 15, 2004, triggered an undersea mudslide that took down the platform and more than two dozen well pipes, which were buried in more than 100 feet of sediment. Taylor Energy claims the oil is seeping out of the oil-soaked sediment.
The report commissioned by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement found the oil is coming from a number of wells. The AP explains nine wells were capped by Taylor Energy, but the company has maintained it's more environmentally prudent to leave 16 of them buried than try to cap them. Gizmodo puts the new numbers in context, reporting they make for a cumulative spill of 25 million gallons; the Deepwater Horizon Spill was more than six times bigger, at 168 million gallons. The Weather Channel reports news of the former spill only publicly emerged in 2010, as scientists discovered it while looking into the latter spill; no coastal environmental damage has been reported. The researchers relied on sonar and a newly developed "bubblometer" to measure the leakage. (Taylor Energy is fighting a federal order to stop that leakage.)