July 24, 2010

Scientists confirm underwater plumes of oil from BP leak

Filed under: Uncategorized — Greg in cheeseland @ 8:43 pm

Author’s note: There is a huge problem with BP using dispersants to keep the oil out of sight and out of mind. Chemical dispersants may have kept most of the oil from floating on the surface and washing up on beaches, but it is still in the water and the problem with that is that it is impossible to clean up and may be even more toxic when mixed with dispersants. Furthermore, the FDA is not testing seafood for the presence of dispersants even though they are bioaccumulative.

In May, when scientists reported the existence of giant underwater plumes of oil, it was argued that it is uncertain that those plumes came from the leak at the Deepwater Horizon site. Researchers have now confirmed that the underwater oil plumes are, indeed, from BP’s leak.

According to the New York Times, scientists from the University of South Florida matched samples taken from the plumes with oil from the leaking well provided by BP. The findings were the first direct confirmation that the plumes were linked to the spill, although federal scientists had said there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence tying them to BP’s well.

The discovery of the plumes several weeks into the oil leak alarmed scientists, who feared that clouds of oil particles could wreak havoc on marine life far below the surface. The underwater plumes also confirm that the heavy use of chemical dispersants have kept much of the oil from rising to the surface, where it may be out of sight and out of mind, but is still poisonous to marine life.

While the underwater oil plumes consist of microscopic droplets of dispersed oil that are invisible to the naked eye, they are extremely large. In May, one was reported to be 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick. Another is 22 miles long and more than 6 miles wide.

According to USF chemical oceanographer David Hollander, “What we have learned completely changes the idea of what an oil spill is. It has gone from a two-dimensional disaster to a three-dimensional catastrophe.” Little is known about the effects of subsurface oil and chemical dispersants on marine life.

The oil droplets could coat fish gills, be eaten by larval fish, or kill fish eggs. “The plume reaching waters on the continental shelf could have a toxic effect on fish larvae, and we also may see a long term response as it cascades up the food web,” Hollander said. The toxins in both oil and chemical dispersants are bioaccumulative, which means that they become more concentrated higher in the food chain. Furthermore, while the FDA is testing seafood from the Gulf for the presence of oil, the NOAA has admitted that it is not being tested for the presence of chemical dispersants, which may be even more toxic than the oil (see video here).

“The only oil we thought we had to worry about was the floating oil,” said Richard Dodge, the dean of the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center. “Now we have this still really undefined mass of submerged oil. … It’s another pool of oil that could impact Florida in yet unknown ways. “We’ve been lucky so far,” he added. “But it still gets scarier.”

Read more, get links and videos here: Madison Independent Examiner – Scientists confirm underwater plumes of oil from BP leak

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