BP Oil Plume Not Yet Gone

August 19th, 2010 at 11:23 pm | 1 Comment |

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The Washington Post reports that there is still a significant amount of oil remaining from the BP oil leak:

WASHINGTON — The oil is there, at least 22 miles of it. You just can’t see it.

A lot of the crude that spewed from BP’s ruptured well is still in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s far below the surface and invisible. And it’s likely to linger for months on end, scientists said Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume of oil from the disaster.

The plume consists of droplets too small for the eye to see, more than a half-mile down, said researchers who mapped it with high-tech sensors.

Scientists fear it could be a threat to certain small fish and crustaceans deep in the ocean. They will have plenty of time to study it for answers.

In the cold, 40-degree water, the oil is degrading at one-tenth the pace at which it breaks down at the surface. That means “the plumes could stick around for quite a while,” said Ben Van Mooy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, a co-author of the research, published online in the journal Science.

Earlier this month, top federal officials declared the oil in the spill was mostly “gone,” and it is gone in the sense that you can’t see it. But the chemical ingredients of the oil persist, researchers found.

Monty Graham, a scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama who was not involved in the new research, said: “We absolutely should be concerned that this material is drifting around for who knows how long. They say months in the (research) paper, but more likely we’ll be able to track this stuff for years.”

Late Thursday, federal officials acknowledged the deepwater oil was not degrading as fast as they initially thought, but still was breaking down “relatively rapidly.” Jane Lubchenco, chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said agency scientists and others were “working furiously” to come up with actual rates of biodegradation.

She noted a bright spot from the slow breakdown of the oil: Faster degradation would mean a big influx of oil-eating microbes. Though they are useful, they also use up oxygen, creating “dead zones” that already plague the Gulf in the summer. Dead zones are not forming because of the oil plume, Lubchenco said.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • jg bennet

    well damn and here i was thinking rush limbaugh was right….

    “The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there,” Limbaugh said. “It’s natural. It’s as natural as the ocean water is.”