During the Congressional hearings, Senator Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said:

If this is like other catastrophic failures of technological systems in modern history, whether it was the sinking of the Titanic, Three Mile Island, or the loss of the Challenger, we will likely discover that there was a cascade of failures and technical and human and regulatory errors.

Less than 24 hours later, as BP’s second containment box is moved into place in an effort that Gulf Coast residents pray will help stop the seemingly endless pouring of oil from the ocean’s floor, the beginning of the “cascade of failures” which led to this disaster has been revealed.

Many have questioned what BP and others knew about the failed blowout preventer and when it knew. This was a focus during the House hearings this morning. According to Representative Henry Waxman, D-CA., the Committee had uncovered documentation that showed BP and others knew that the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon had a leak in a crucial hydraulic system. This leak is likely one of the predominate causes of the blowout preventer’s failure to stop the oil leak.

BP records also show that the oil well had failed negative pressure tests less than 20 hours before the explosion which sank the mobile offshore drilling unit, killing 11 people, and caused more than four million gallons of oil to be spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Records show that there was a breach in the well integrity which allowed methane gas and other hydrocarbons to enter the well and likely caused the explosion.

Unfortunately, BP and others did not take these failures seriously, and its neglect has ultimately led to a disaster which threatens the way of life for individuals in more than four states.

While everyone along the Gulf Coast scrambles to find a way to protect his livelihood and property, BP and the others involved continue to “promise” to “pay all legitimate claims.” While this sounds good in a five-second sound bite on the national news channels, many are wondering when this payment will come and whether it will be sufficient to keep their businesses open and their employees on the payroll.

Unfortunately, nobody can answer these crucial questions except for BP and the others involved, and they will not be giving clear answers any time soon. One thing that is clear, however, is that the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will be felt for years to come.