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Maryland Prepares In Case Gulf Oil Reaches Chesapeake

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By Sabri Ben-Achour

Maryalnd Gov. Martin O'Malley held a cabinet meeting to assess what the state could do if oil from the Gulf of Mexico made it to Maryland's shores.

The good news, according to experts advising the governor, is that in order for the oil in the gulf to reach Maryland, it would have to drift south from where it is, then hitch a ride on the loop current to Florida, hop into the gulfstream and up the Atlantic coast, and then a hurricane would have to hit it at just the right time to - maybe - shove it toward Maryland and possibly into the Chesapeake Bay.

O'Malley acknowledged it's a stretch.

"Even though all the forecasting and the modeling says this is not very likely to happen, the accident itself was not very likely to happen," he says.

So the governor asked his top officials how they would prepare. The Department of the Environment reported that Maryland already has 13,000 feet of boom on hand for any of the 400 minor oil spills that occur in the state each year.

The bad news is booms wouldn't really do anything to the oil if it got here.

"At that point the oil will be very different than what's out in the gulf today, the changes in the months that it will take to get here, will be dramatic as the oil weathers; it's broken down by sunlight and bacteria," says Jonathan McKnight, associate director of wildlife for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

It would come in the form of little tarballs, that aren't stopped by booms. They're not particularly toxic, but they are sticky and bad for wildlife. If they did wash ashore, as they have in the past, crews would have to go pick them up.

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