Friday, August 20, 2010

Oil Spill Plume Is Not Breaking Down Fast, Study Says

A few weeks ago the government reported that the oil was breaking down faster than anticipated and it appeared that the major threat to our shores had been averted. Todays report indicates that the plumes of oil beneath the surface are still there and are degrading slowly. There is still significant concern over the effect on the food supply to support the fishing industry in the Gulf. Here's hoping that mother nature continues to do her thing and save us from any additional damage to our ecological system.

Dr. Camilli’s paper tends to support the view that considerable oil may be lingering below the surface of the gulf. He said he was not especially surprised by the slow rate of breakdown, considering that the waters of the gulf are about 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the vicinity of the plume.

“In colder environments, microbes operate more slowly,” Dr. Camilli said. “That’s why we have refrigerators.”

NOAA, while initially skeptical, ultimately confirmed the existence of such plumes. The new paper appears to dispel any lingering doubt, providing detailed evidence that one major plume and at least one minor plume existed and contained large quantities of hydrocarbons, albeit dispersed into tiny droplets.

Dr. Camilli’s team measured the main plume at roughly 3,600 feet below the surface; it extended for more than 20 miles southwest of the well. It was more than a mile wide in places and 600 feet thick, traveling at about four miles a day.

At the time his team studied it in June, the plume appeared to have narrowed from measurements reported early in the spill by a team that included Dr. Joye and Vernon Asper, a marine scientist from the University of Southern Mississippi, but Dr. Camilli’s results otherwise matched their report.

The slow breakdown of the plume, if verified by additional research, suggests that scientists may find themselves tracking the toxic compounds from BP’s well and trying to discern their impact on sea life for a long time.

NYT: Oil Plume Is Not Breaking Down Fast, Study Says

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