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Gulf oil spill: Why booms, in short supply, may not save the day

Prices jump for oil-containment booms, as communities scramble to protect their coastlines from the approaching slick from the Gulf oil spill. Moreover, booms are effective only in certain conditions, experts say.

Gulf oil spill: workers at a decontamination site in Venice, La., bundle oil-containment boom that was cleaned Tuesday.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley/U.S. Coast Guard/AP

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Oil-containment booms are in short supply on the Gulf Coast as communities scramble to protect their coastlines from the approaching slick, but experts warn that booms alone will not stop the wave-borne crude oil from washing ashore.

Regional supplies of boom are sold out, and the cost of renting booms from elsewhere has nearly doubled in the past week, says Todd Duke, a project manager with Resolve Marine who is working with local officials in St. Tammany Parish to protect Lake Pontchartrain, which abuts New Orleans.

“A manufacturer in Florida told me it would take four weeks to fill an order for boom, so I started calling other contactors in the Great Lakes and Caribbean about renting boom,” says Mr. Duke. “Before the spill, it cost $1.10 a foot, now it’s $2 a foot. There’s only so much out there, and the price is starting to go through the roof.”

IN PICTURES: Louisiana oil spill and Destructive oil spills

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