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Oil Discovered On Gulf Seafloor

September 14, 2010

Researchers onboard a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico have discovered a layer of oil at least two inches thick on the seafloor near the damaged BP oil well, suggesting that the crude that had spilled into the waters there for much of the summer is not gone, as government officials had claimed.

Last month, a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that the majority of the 200 million-plus gallons of oil that had spilled into the Gulf waters had disappeared, had been burned off, or was otherwise contained. However, findings by University of Georgia (UGA) researcher Samantha Joye on Sunday and Monday seem to suggest otherwise.

According to various media reports, Joye and her colleagues discovered the oil roughly a mile below the surface of the Gulf waters, and underneath it they uncovered a layer of dead shrimp, plankton, and other forms of sea life.

Joye and her crew took 14 samples, and discovered visible petroleum in all but four of them, including one that came from a site 80 miles from where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank on April 20.

“I expected to find oil on the sea floor,” Joye told reporters during a ship-to-shore telephone interview on Monday morning. “I did not expect to find this much. I didn’t expect to find layers two inches thick. It’s weird the stuff we found last night. Some of it was really dense and thick”¦ It’s kind of like having a blizzard where the snow comes in and covers everything.”

Also on Monday, BP resumed work on the long-delayed relief well, as they began drilling nearly a month after threats of a tropical storm caused the work to be postponed.

According to what Thad Allen, the head of the U.S. government’s oil spill clean-up efforts, told AFP, it will take the British-based petroleum company four days to complete drilling work. Once they have successfully intercepted the Mancondo well, they will then begin pumping mud and cement into the well in order to complete the “bottom kill procedure” needed to fully seal the equipment.

“I will continue to provide updates on the progress of the relief well, the final step that will ensure the well is fully and finally killed, as necessary,” Allen, a retired Coast Guard chief, told reporters in a statement released Monday.

Image Caption: A layer of oil on a sediment core (from a site NE of the wellhead). Credit: Samantha Joye / University of Georgia

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