Everyone knew that the use of unprecedented amounts of dispersants would be one of the ongoing issues of the BP oil spill. Did it really break up the oil, or just hide it? Growing evidence indicates that, once again, federal officials who took the rosier view of the dispersant issue were dead wrong. With headlines like “Feds: Oil dispersant worked better than thought” hitting the streets only two weeks ago, you can almost hear them back-pedaling now.
One of the more significant mainstream media reports is from the Wall Street Journal, if only because of the paper’s typically pro-business view. The WSJ cites federal officials and a University of South Florida team reporting: “…material appears in spots across several thousand square miles of seafloor, they said. In many of those spots, they said, worms and other marine life that crawl along the sediment appear dead, though many organisms that can swim appear healthy. How the death of organisms in the sediment might affect the broader Gulf ecology is something scientists are studying.”
According to researcher Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia oceanographer, the impact is severe. She said the worms that live on the sea floor have been “just decimated.”
It’s interesting that the WSJ positions the use of dispersants thus: “Under federal direction, about 1.8 million gallons of dispersants were sprayed on the spilled oil in an effort to break it up into tiny droplets that natural ocean microbes could eat up. At the time, officials said the dispersants shouldn’t cause oil from the spill to sink to the seafloor. However, more recently, a federal report said dispersants may have helped some spilled oil sink to the sediment.”
I would question that “federal direction.” In reality, the federal government turned effective control over to BP, first asking the company to use the dispersant as little as possible and then rubber-stamping every type of use. Obviously, those who would argue that the company wanted to sink and hide the oil are supported by the new findings. The next question will be how tough the government gets with making sure that BP funds long-term studies to determine eventual damages.
And since BP is obligated to restore the natural resources, how exactly is the oil giant going to to remove this material from the environment, a mile beneath the surface? If anyone has an idea, please let me know.
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