Well, BP’s “static kill” seems to have finally plugged the leak in the Gulf of Mexico, more than 3 months after it began spewing oil into the ocean. (Though the final nail in the coffin won’t come until the “bottom kill” succeeds.)
And despite the optimistic reports today, the amount of oil remaining in the gulf is still equivalent to at least four times the amount that spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster, and possibly double that.
NOAA predicts that 26% of the oil is “residual” or still residing in the gulf and that another 24% was “dispersed” but much of that may still be hanging around waiting for mother nature (a.k.a. bacteria) to break it down. Further, NOAA says some of the oil is “dissolved” which doesn’t mean the same thing as “disappeared.” So more than half of the oil could still be dwelling in the Gulf – maybe as much as 8 Exxon Valdez spills’ worth.
And there are still many, many unanswered questions.
Chief among them surrounds the unprecedented use of dispersants in the gulf. At a Senate hearing today, Oceana’s senior campaign director Jacqueline Savitz testified that because dispersants prevent the oil from reaching shore by coaxing it into the water column, BP and the government may have saved sea birds and marshes at the expense of corals and fish.
As Savitz was quoted by the New York Times, “If you zap somebody with a bunch of chemicals and they don’t die, it doesn’t mean they continue to develop normally.’’
Oceana’s research expedition in the gulf, which begins next week, will take a stab at answering the lingering questions about the long-term affects of the spill on marine wildlife. Stay tuned for updates as we receive them from the boat.