With Florida poised to fall victim to the oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, John Proni talked to NBC local news about his experiences with another large scale Gulf spill. Saying he felt a sense of deja vu, Proni recalled the 1979 spill off the coast of Ixtoc, Mexico. The Ixtoc Spill resulted in 140 million gallons of oil being released and took 300 days to fix. It was the worst peacetime oil spill on record - until now. In contrast, the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaskan waters spilled 40 million gallons of oil.
Working with a team of researchers under NOAA in 1979-1980, Proni studied the Ixtoc Spill in the months following the accident and expressed concern that so little of what was learned then has been put into operation today. Like the current BP spill, the Ixtoc spill was the result of an oil rig explosion and the failure of the automatic shutoff equipment. Proni says the key to limiting dispersal of the oil is to get to it early; he proposed using oil tankers equipped with special hoses to capture the oil spilled. Additionally, the drilling of relief wells is needed to reduce the pressure from the leaking well and allow it to be closed off. While BP has begun drilling a relief well, the process takes time and in this case, it is complicated by the extreme depth of the well - 5000 feet below the surface. To view the interview with Dr. Proni, go to