photo: Tabitha Kaylee Hawk via flickr
A new report from the University of Georgia and the Georgia Sea Grant contends that the amount of oil remaining in the water in the wake of the Gulf oil spill is far higher than reported. In fact 70-79% of oil not captured at the wellhead by BP still poses a threat to the ecosystem. That's 2.9-3.2 million barrels of oil still in the water. Despite widespread reports stating that only 25% of oil from the disaster has not been dispersed, evaporated, or dissolved--therefore no longer a threat--the scientists involved in the study say that this interpretation is misleading.
Charles Hopkins, director of the Georgia Sea Grant:
One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless. 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.
Commenting on the 90% of oil not recovered at the wellhead, the report notes that this is composed of oil 1) dispersed as micro-droplets, 2) dispersed as micro-droplets with dispersant coating, 3) dissolved (some of which has evaporated), and 4) residual.
The scientists say,
The news media's tendency to interpret "dispersed" and "dissolved" and "gone" is wrong. Dispersed and dissolved forms can be highly toxic. Furthermore, sorting the oil into the four above states falls short of assessing how much of it remains a potential threat to the system.
On a positive note, the report says that natural processes are continuing to transform, dilute, degrade and evaporate the oil that remains. Also, due to the pattern of currents at the moment, oil has been prevented from reaching the Loop Current, and therefore being dragged into the Atlantic Ocean.
Read the original report: Outcome/Guidance from Georgia Sea Grant Program: Current Status of BP Oil Spill [PDF]
More on the Gulf Oil Spill:
Must See Aerial Footage of BP Oil Spill Shows 'The Gulf Bleeding' (Video)
Will the BP Oil Spill Be Our Collective Zen Slap Into Eco-Realization? Let's Hope So
BP Oil Spill Causing More Gulf Dead Zones as Methane Levels Increase