Gulf Oil Plumes Still a Threat? – Samantha Joye

Contrast the work of independent scientists like Samantha Joye with the BP-funded work of Terry Hazen:

Source [Hazen’s] research was supported by an existing grant with the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership led by the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.

Hazen said his research team of about 50 people began their oil spill study on May 25 and continued until Oct. 20. “From July 27 to Aug. 26, we took over 170 samples. We could not find any oil,” he said of the plume that had spread southwest of the well, which was capped on July 15. “We don’t believe that plume is out there anymore,” he said. The plume had been about 1,100 meters below the surface, and was 5 to 10 kilometers wide, 30 kilometers long and 200 meters thick, he said. But, the massive plume disappeared within two weeks of the well being capped, he said.  Source

Mother Jones:  In the weeks after BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf, a number of environmental groups and scientists began raising concerns about the huge volume of chemical dispersants the company was spreading in the water. These chemicals are used to break the oil into smaller globs, which causes them to sink and supposedly biodegrade faster.

The BP disaster shed light on how little oversight there is of these chemicals, and how little is known about their long-term impacts. The Environmental Protection Agency pledged to investigate, and released its own studies in June and July that found that the dispersants were no more toxic than the oil. (By the time EPA weighed in, 1.84 million gallons of Corexit, BP’s dispersant of choice, had already been dumped in the Gulf.)

Now Peter Hodson, an aquatic toxicologist from Queen’s University in Ontario, says that the EPA’s conclusions might not be exactly true; the dispersed oil does have a more toxic effect, since toxic components like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are spread around more widely in the water. Nature reports on his presentation at a Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Portland, Oregon earlier this week:

The problem, explains Hodson, is that the dispersed cloud of microscopic oil droplets allows the PAHs to contaminate a volume of water 100–1,000 times greater than if the oil were confined to a floating surface slick. This hugely increases the exposure of wildlife to the dispersed oil. “EPA was presenting only part of the risk equation,” he told the meeting. “They’re trying to sugar-coat the message. In trying to understand the risks of dispersed oil, we need to understand exposure.”

Hodson’s research suggests that fish embryos, still in their eggs, are extremely sensitive to dispersed oil. “Exposures as brief as an hour can have a negative effect on embryonic fish,” he says. That, combined with the fact that for any some species, large numbers of fish can spawn at about the same time of year, means that an entire hatch could be decimated by a plume of contaminated water: “You could have a very large portion of the fish stock affected.”

Joye on the dispersant experiment: “The volume, the sheer magnitude of dispersant application is mind-boggling. The fact is that we have no idea what this could do to the system. The dispersant is a complex chemical milieu of who knows what,” explains Joye. “It [the use of dispersants] does one thing really well. It masks the magnitude of the spill, and it potentially does many, many things badly.”

 

See Also: National Geographic – Giant Coral Die-Off Found – Gulf Spill Smoking Gun?

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