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The spill was caused by an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig on April 20th, 2010. When the rig sunk and caused damage to the oil well a mile beneath the surface of the water, the blowout preventer — the only back-up plan the oil industry has for spills — failed, causing oil to start leaking into the Gulf. Since the leak started in April, it is estimated that over 150 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. In comparison, the Exxon Valdez — previously the worst oil spill in US history — leaked 10.8 million gallons of oil into the waters off of Alaska.

+ Inhabitat Coverage of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill