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Much Oil Remains In Gulf, Scientists Claim

August 18, 2010

Despite earlier National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports, the Gulf of Mexico waters may not be petroleum free after all.

The NOAA has claimed that half of the nearly five million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the recent Deepwater Horizon environmental crisis have been evaporated, burned off, skimmed, contained, or dispersed. However, scientists from the University of Georgia and the University of South Florida assert that the petroleum is still in the water, and remains a threat to the area.

According to a team of five University of Georgia scientists, nearly four-fifths of the crude that started pouring into the Gulf waters in late April is still there

“We just reanalyzed this report…and then we calculated how much oil is still likely to be out there and that is how we came up to 70 to 79 percent that must be out there,” Charles Hopkinson, a marine scientist at the Athens-based school, told AFP reporters on Tuesday.

“One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and therefore, harmless,” he added. “The oil is still out there and it will likely take years to completely degrade. We are still far from a complete understanding of what its impacts are.”

Likewise, experts at the University of South Florida (USF) are in the process of analyzing soil from an undersea canyon in the Florida Panhandle, but according to Associated Press (AP) Science Writer Seth Borenstein, they have found evidence of microscopic bits of oil mixed with the soil. Furthermore, the USF researchers also found plant plankton that they say had been poisoned by oil and dispersants.

“The oil is not gone, that’s for sure. There is oil and we need to deal with it,” scientist David Hollander told Borenstein on Tuesday. He also told the AP reporter that two out of every five plankton samples that his team retrieved from depths of between 900 and 3,300 feet “some degree of toxicity” and that the pollutants that are poisoning them could linger for an indeterminate amount of time.

The USF and Georgia reports contradict comments made by NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco, who on August 4 told reporters that “at least 50-percent” of the oil that had been leaking out of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig for more than three months “is now completely gone from the system, and most of the remainder is degrading rapidly or is being removed from the beaches.”

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