A massive oil slick from an offshore oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has made its way to the shores of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Workers on land and in the water are working to contain the rust-colored oil that is harming wildlife and the economy of the area.

The oil is coming from a badly damaged oil rig, a large, offshore platform where workers drill oil wells in the ocean floor. The rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 people. It overturned and sank into the ocean two days later. More than 200,000 gallons of oil a day have been gushing from its underwater pipelines since the explosion. So far, efforts to stop the oil spill at its source have failed. 

The oil-polluted waters are already affecting area wildlife. More and more oil-soaked birds are being seen. Lifeless sea turtles and other water-dwellers have started to wash up on area beaches.

The U.S. government has ordered all fishing stopped for at least 10 days because the fish caught in the polluted waters may not be safe to eat. Forty percent of the seafood consumed in the U.S. comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing is a very important industry in the area—many people make their living on boats.

Experts think the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf will have effects on wildlife, the environment, and the economy for years to come. It is hard to tell exactly how bad the damage will be in the long term, as the first waves of the slick are just now reaching land.

President Obama says the government is committed to dealing with the oil spill on all fronts.

"Every American affected by this spill should know this: Your government will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to stop this crisis," he said on Sunday. "That's a commitment I'm making as President of the United States."

How do you think this oil spill will affect you? How do you think they can clean up the oil spill?  What other things can you do to help the environment and keep the Earth clean?