A recent study verifies what many have believed all along concerning the effect of the oil and chemicals spilled in the Gulf on Marine life. The 2010 oil spill damaged the tiny animals that live on the sea floor for about 57 square miles around the blown-out BP oil well. There was severe damage in about nine square miles of that area. Pollution and damage to animal life was severe nearly two miles from the wellhead and identifiable more than 10 miles away, Dr. Paul A. Montagna, a Texas A&M researcher, published the report on September 24 in the online journal PLOS One.
Dr. Montagna, a professor of ecosystems and modeling at Texas A&M, said the refrigerator-cold water a mile beneath the surface means oil takes longer to decay than in shallower waters, where spill recovery has taken years to decades. He says that means full recovery could take a generation or more. Apparently, this is the first large-scale examination of the impact on the soft bottom, which is the largest habitat in deep water. Dr. Roberts Carney, a deep-sea ecologist and professor in Louisiana State University’s department of oceanography and coastal sciences, verifies that fact. Dr. Carney, who was not part of the study, says that the study was well done.
Dr. Carney points out that the extent of the damage and the size and reach of the plume of oil caused the problems described in the report. As we all know, the well blew wild for nearly three months after April 20, 2010. The oil that became heavy enough to sink to the bottom did so and all of it went to the bottom, covering a large area, according to Dr. Carney. The study is part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment that will help decide what damages BP must pay. Dr. Montagna will likely testify at some point since he was working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and with NOAA scientists and is knowledgeable about the oil spill.
The scientists analyzed core samples from 68 sites between one-third of a mile and nearly 78 miles from the Macondo wellhead, looking for animal life and for pollutants such as the toxic oil components called polyaromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals such as barium from drilling mud used in unsuccessful attempts to shut the well. Statistical analysis reduced it to one number — an index of high contamination and low biological diversity — used to map the effects. The analysis took so much time because one step was counting and classifying animals less than one-hundredth of an inch long and comparing the numbers of nematode worms and the tiny crustaceans called copepods, which are more sensitive to pollution. That is still going on for samples from a follow-up cruise in spring 2011 and hasn’t even begun for 102 of the sites checked in 2010, Dr. Montagna said.
Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune
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