A federal court in New Orleans granted a government request to create a security perimeter around the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that exploded and sank six months ago, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
The government is conducting a criminal investigation into the explosion, the deaths of 11 rig workers and the resulting spill, in which 4.9 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. The court order, which forbids tampering with the site and the surrounding area, is intended to serve as the equivalent of yellow crime-scene tape.
The Deepwater Horizon wreckage is about a mile from the BP oil well that blew out after the rig exploded April 20. The security perimeter extends 750 feet in every direction from the sunken rig and its debris, not the well, according to a Justice Department spokesman. None of the remains of the victims have been recovered.
The Coast Guard and “other U.S. assets” will be monitoring the area to ensure it remains clear, and all the companies equipped to reach the wreckage that rests a mile below the gulf’s surface have been notified of the court’s decision, Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said.
The government declined to say whether anything precipitated the filing of the motion, saying only that the order was “a preventive and precautionary measure.”
A BP representative said that she had not heard about the court order but that the company would not go near the site without informing the gulf oil spill unified command.