Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Degraded Oil From BP Spill Coats Gulf Seafloor

NEW YORK - Now that BP's Deepwater Horizon oil well has been sealed, the long, hard work of assessing the damage begins even as the oil is dispersing throughout the Gulf.

A research team from Columbia University in New York returned this past weekend (Sept. 17 to 19) from a tour of duty in the Gulf of Mexico with new data to attempt to measure the location and magnitude of subsurface oil plumes, and their effects on the marine ecosystem, which have recently been the focus of much debate.

They found oil on the seafloor, evidence that it may be in the food chain, and signs that it may be hidden in large marine mammals. In spots, the "oily snow" — degraded oil and other organic material that clings to it — was up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) deep on the seafloor, said Columbia oceanographer Ajit Subramaniam.

"The idea that the oil is degraded and therefore doesn't matter is something we have to think about differently," Subramaniam said at a talk here today. "This is one of the first findings that showed degraded oil material collected on the seafloor."



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