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Gulf oil spill: Most of the oil remains

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a controversial “oil spill budget” Aug. 2 estimating that a large part of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico by the Deepwater Horizon spill was gone. But in a hearing on Capitol Hill, a NOAA official conceded that three-fourths of the pollutants from the 4.1 million barrels spewed into the gulf are still lingering in the environment.

Bill-lehr-noaa Bill Lehr, senior scientist with NOAA’s Office of Restoration and Response, said booming and burning probably cleaned up only about 10% of the spilled oil.  Much of the oil has evaporated or dispersed, but remains a source of hydrocarbons in the ecosystem, he said.

 “This is a continuing operation,” Lehr emphasized. "The spill is far from over. We’re beginning a new phase, and NOAA and all the other agencies will be involved in this.”

“We have seen some premature celebration,” said Rep. Edward Markey, (D-Mass.), who convened the House Energy and Environment subcommittee hearing.  “What we have learned today is that the oil is not gone. The oil remaining in the Gulf waters or washed up on the shore is equivalent to 10 Exxon Valdez spills, and could be much more.” 

The report released recently by NOAA and the Department of Interior -- in which the agencies said the “vast majority” of the oil had been either recovered, dispersed or evaporated --  rendered more optimistic figures because it counted as recovered the 800,000 barrels of oil captured directly by ships, Lehr conceded  under questioning by Markey.

He said agency scientists also have not tallied the significant quantities of methane gas and heavy metals released into the gulf as a result of the spill.

If only 10% of the spilled oil was actually recovered, that is equivalent to the 10% to 15% recoveries scientists estimated were possible from a major spill at the time of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, Markey noted. “So it seems to me that BP comes in only at the low end of what was possible 20 years ago.... I think it’s important that even using a 21-year-old grading system, that BP has done a very poor job in cleaning up the gulf.”

Lisa Suatoni, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, added in her testimony:  “We understand that the government wants to turn the corner and wants to signal that the gulf is on its way to recovery. However, the facts simply do not bear that out. There is still a huge amount of oil in the environment." 

Scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration said they are confident that seafood coming from the newly opened areas of the gulf is safe to eat. Testing for hydrocarbons and residuals from the 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants used to break up the oil showed no dangerous contaminants, they said.

In tests of 500 shrimp and crabs for exposure to the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are one of the most dangerous elements in crude oil, all showed levels “below levels of concern” by a factor of 500 to 1,000 — “essentially similar to prior to the oil spill,” said Donald Kraemer, acting deputy director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

In testing of 3,000 water samples, only two showed signs of dispersant. Moreover, all dispersants used when tested directly showed up as non-toxic or slightly toxic, and in combination with crude oil, no more toxic than the oil itself, which is considered moderately toxic, said Paul Anastas, an assistant EPA administrator.

-- Kim Murphy in New Orleans

Photo: Bill Lehr of NOAA. Credit: Chip Somodeveilla / Getty Images

Comments () | Archives (13)

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this stuff needs to be cleaned up and quickly and we find a new source of energy.

What about "WATER" fuel?!
Isn't that being used as a fuel by NASA?!?!?!
All that trouble to find water on the moon and Marte... for what?!... for watering the onboard plants of the spaceships?! NO, for electrolisis of water into HHO to fuel up the engines.

Wake up, seach around the web and find why so many websites were closed that offered the HHO (water electolisis) low tech.
I'm changing my car into HHO.
H2= 3 times power of gasoline
O2 (why do you think to power up engines they use a turgo charger) To be able to increase the amount of Oxigen intake to increase explosion ...
Man i learn electrolisis at 6th grade at school... didn't you??

Wow I wish that we have that here in New Zealand Nelson

I watched your movie (fuel) today I enjoyed it. I'm very thankful that I watched this. I wish we all could be using this fuel here in New Zealand..

I watched your movie (fuel) today with my husband and we both really enjoyed it. I'm thankful that there are people like you out there striving to do whats right even though there are much more powerful people doing the wrong things over and over again.. I wish We could be using this fuel here in New Zealand..

Thank you
Lynn & Bill

Millions of DEAD fish are being dragged off by the National Guard and BP every night still. Dolphins, birds, etc. etc. etc.

No Fly Zone still in large parts of the Gulf.

Well these green alarmists will certianly exploit this spill but if you look at Bp's track record you will see negligence and not only a pattern of it but a history of it. It gives the entire industry a bad reputation and a black eye something these cap and tax vultures want to exploit too. You never hear about Shell or Exxon (since the Valdez incident) having any problems.

Bp has a history of out right not caring at all when it comes to people that being workers and civilian public. They have a history of fatalities and injuries along with all the lies all you got to do is google them even right now and hit news and they got problems all over North America right now and its not just this Gulf spill. So when is Bp gonna be held accountable for its profits over safety attitude?

I mean all the other oil companies seem to stay within federal guidelines and the law but not Bp their in a league of their own. Just research it and see for yourself. Releasing toxic gases and record fines at their Texas city plant along with Indianna plant had a pipeline rupture leak and cleared out a whole neighborhood had to be put in hotels because of the gases.Problems in Colorado with another pipeline that they never went back and buried that is leaking and that is happening right now and lets not forget the explosion in 2005 along with Alaskan pipeline leak and spill not long after that it just seems never ending with Bp.

Is it just me or does anyone else see this? I mean their track record peoves it by itself. Look at all the fatalities and injuries just in the Texas city plant alone along with all the federal violations of illegal releases of wasted gases violations and citations even from the attorney generals office in the last 20 yrs versus evreyone elses records.

So I ask when do we start holding people responsible for their actions and attitudes? When it directly affects you and its on your doorstep or threatening your neighborhood?

Paul and Brian why don't you both show us how natural oil is and breath gasoline fumes for 30 minutes. Maybe 10 minutes? Moron's...

when your own government agency says there's still a problem, there is still a problem.

Have there been any reports of the submerged oil caused by the dispersants having any hazardous gas impacts on people living on the coast. I talked to a boat caption working for BP that reported they were had to ware Israel gas masks just a few miles off of St George Island because of this. The only explanation he could come up with was that gas was coming from submerged underwater oil plume as there was not oil or signs of oil anywhere close to St George Island. This captain was called an admerl by BP representatives because he had 5 boats that were hired. He also said he was keeping two logs, one for the BP an one on his own that better documented what he found. This was reported to me back in June before the capped the oil spill. I have not seen the boat captain since then.

I have been having mild head aches recently since the wind has changed direction and coming from the gulf. Have not noticed any unusual smell. Did notice sawgum grass which should be a light green color is washing up on shore with no color just a light black and dead as a nail.

Oil and gas are natural, they exist throughout nature. Mankind "discovered" oil from seeps and then developed methods to pursue it for it's beneficial qualities several thousand years ago. Natural gas/methane is emitted to the atmosphere all around the world, these things are not like man made plutonium, nature has a capacity to deal with them. I'm curious how long we'll have experts telling us "We can't find any signs of the destruction, but we know it's still out there destroying the world! This requires further study to mitigate the destruction."

What about Costner's oil-separating machines? Didn't they order 25 or so? Why are they burning the oil? Why aren't they using these machines? God, it's so infuriating.

Markey is a raving lunatic. The guy would rather have us living in the Stone Age or on some mystical "green" planet. The oil is dispersed over vast areas. The comparisons to the Exxon Valdez spill are silly and illegitimate - the GoM has an ecosystem that lives off hydrocarbons and the warm waters/temps are much more conducive to natural degradation/evaporation than the frigid waters off Alaska. Look at the test data - none of the Agencies testing water/marine life have noticed much, if any lasting effect. Of course, this isn't what the alarmists wanted - they wanted front page news of millions of dead fish/birds bobbing in the estuaries. Yes, millions of bbls of oil is never good to be dumped into the ocean, but if it had to happen, the GoM turns out to be one of the better places on the planet to see relatively rapid natural recovery to pre spill conditions.


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