Hurricane Alex's rough seas have pushed more oil from the massive spill onto Gulf Coast beaches and sidelined dozens of cleanup vessels.
In Louisiana, Alex pushed an oil patch toward Grand Isle and uninhabited Elmer's Island, dumping tar balls as big as apples onto the beach, and in Alabama, normally white sand was streaked with long lines of oil, reports the Associated Press.
"The sad thing is that it's been about three weeks since we had any big oil come in here," marine science technician Michael Malone told the AP. "With this weather,we lost all the progress we made."
Alex, which strengthened into the season's first Atlantic hurricane late Tuesday and is the first June hurricane since 1995, prompted residents along the southern coast of Texas to evacuate, reports USA TODAY colleague Marisol Bello. It will likely make landfall near the Mexico-Texas border tonight.
Because of Alex's 80-mph maximum winds and huge waves, dozens of oil-skimming boats were returned to shore Tuesday in Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. They're expected to remain out of operation for days. Some barges, designed to block oil from sensitive wetlands, were also removed because of rough seas.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its test results of dispersants used to break up oil, including the one -- Corexit 9500 -- that BP has been using in the Gulf. EPA found none of the eight it tested displayed biologically significant endocrine disrupting activity.
"We want to ensure that every tool is available to mitigate the impact of the BP spill and protect our fragile wetlands," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said Wednesday in announcing the results. " But we continue to direct BP to use dispersants responsibly and in as limited an amount as possible."
Also Wednesday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he is trying to finalize a new offshore drilling moratorium after a federal court struck down the administration's initial six-month drilling ban, reports Reuters. His comments came as a U.S. Senate committee voted to eliminate limits on liability that oil companies could face for damages from offshore spills.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will coordinate a plan in the coming weeks to save thousands of sea turtle hatchling, a threatened species, from dying in oily Gulf waters, reports the AP. The effort involves collecting about 70,000 turtle eggs in up to 800 nests buried in the sand across Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches.
Since the spill began April 20, 70.8 million to 137.6 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf of Mexico from BP's broken Macondo well, according to government and BP estimates. The higher estimate is enough oil to fill half of New York's Empire State Building, according to AP.
More oil-collection help could arrive once the hurricane passes because the United States has accepted offers of assistance from international organizations and 12 countries including Mexico, Norway, Holland, Japan, Croatia and Canada, reports AP.
Source: USA Today