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Thread: Study: Toxic Levels of Oil Spreading Underwater In Gulf

  1. #1
    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default Study: Toxic Levels of Oil Spreading Underwater In Gulf

    Remember when the government said "there's absolutely no evidence" of "any significant concentration of oil" left in the Gulf of Mexico a couple of weeks ago? Surprise! There's a lot of oil left, and it's spreading along the ocean floor.



    CNN) -- A new report set to be released Tuesday renews concerns about the long-term environmental impact of the Gulf Coast oil disaster, and efforts to permanently plug the ruptured BP oil well have been delayed again.

    Researchers at the University of South Florida have concluded that oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill may have settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico further east than previously suspected -- and at levels toxic to marine life.

    Initial findings from a new survey of the Gulf conclude that dispersants may have sent droplets of crude to the ocean floor, where it has turned up at the bottom of an undersea canyon within 40 miles of the Florida Panhandle. The results are scheduled to be released Tuesday, but CNN obtained a summary of the initial conclusions Monday night.

    Plankton and other organisms at the base of the food chain showed a "strong toxic response" to the crude, and the oil could well up onto the continental shelf and resurface later, according to researchers.


    "The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said John Paul, a marine microbiologist at USF.

    The spill erupted April 20 with an explosion that sank the offshore drilling platform Deepwater Horizon. The blast killed 11 men and uncapped an undersea gusher that spewed an estimated 205 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before it was temporarily shut on July 15.
    Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government's point man in the Gulf, said Monday that attempts to permanently seal the well won't start until the latest potential problem is evaluated. Allen said engineers are now concerned about how to manage the risk of pressure in the annulus, a ring that surrounds the casing pipe at the center of the well shaft.

    The "timelines won't be known until we get a recommendation on the course of action," Allen said.

    Scientists began new pressure tests last week to gauge the effects of the mud and cement poured into the well from above during the "static kill" procedure that started August 3. From those pressure readings, they believe that either some of the cement breached the casing pipe and leaked into the annulus, or cement came up into the annulus from the bottom.

    The scientists believe that process may have trapped some oil between the cement and the top of the well, inside the annulus. Now, given that new variable, they're trying to figure out how to safely maintain the pressure within the well before launching the "bottom kill," a procedure aimed at sealing the well from below.

    Allen told reporters that when it comes to giving a green light to the "bottom kill" of the well through the nearby relief well, "nobody wants to make that declaration any more than I do." But the process "will not start until we figure out how to manage the risk of pressure in the annulus."

    "We're using an overabundance of caution," he said.

    Allen said crews could remove the capping stack that sealed the oil in the well on July 15, then replace the well's blowout preventer with a new one stored on the nearby Development Driller II in the Gulf. Allen said a new blowout preventer would be "rated at much higher pressure levels than the annulus."

    The other option would require BP to devise a pressure-relief device for the current capping stack.

    Once crews get their marching orders, it will take them about 96 hours to prepare, drill the final 50 feet of a relief well and intercept the main well. Then, the bottom kill process of plugging the well from below would begin.

    More state restrictions on fishing in the Gulf of Mexico were lifted Monday as the fall shrimping season began.

    The oil spill has hobbled fishermen across the Gulf as federal and state authorities put much of its waters off-limits due to safety concerns. With the well capped on a temporary basis for a month, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the Gulf states have begun lifting those restrictions -- but Louisiana shrimpers like Anthony Bourgeoif say more needs to be done, and soon.

    "It's open down over here with small shrimp, where it should be open over there where the big shrimp are," Bourgeoif said. "Can't make no money with no little shrimp, man."

    Bourgeoif said he planned to go out, because "I ain't made nothing since the BP spill." But he was concerned that inspectors might find signs of oil in his catch and make him dump it.

    "So why go out there and catch it if they're just going to be dumped, and I ain't going to make no money off it?" he asked. "I've got to make money. I've got four grandkids I'm raising, man."

    Deborah Long, a spokeswoman for the Southern Shrimp Alliance, said it will likely take days to assess what impact the spill has had on the Gulf catch. And while some shrimpers are eager to get back out, many are still working for the well's owner, BP, which has hired many boats to skim oil off the surface and lay protective booms along the shorelines.

    BP acknowledged Monday that the disruption the oil spill has caused to lives across the Gulf coast has built up tension among residents. In response, the company announced Monday it is providing a total of $52 million to five behavioral health support and outreach programs.

    BP released a statement saying it would give the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration $10 million; the Florida Department of Children and Families, $3 million; the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, $15 million; and the departments of mental health in Mississippi and Alabama, $12 million each.

    "We appreciate that there is a great deal of stress and anxiety across the region, and as part of our determination to make things right for the people of the region, we are providing this assistance now to help make sure individuals who need help know where to turn," said Lamar McKay, president of BP America and incoming leader of BP's Gulf Coast Restoration Organization.
    Study: 'Toxic Levels' of Oil Spreading Along Underwater Gulf Canyon



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  2. #2
    Elite Member Froogy's Avatar
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    Well duh, did anyone besides the White House believe that the 200 million gallons just disappeared?

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    Elite Member Mr. Authority's Avatar
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    Well shit I was hoping it had vanished to be honest. How depressing.

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    Elite Member Mel1973's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Froogy View Post
    Well duh, did anyone besides the White House believe that the 200 million gallons just disappeared?
    mmmhhhmm, file this in the "NO SHIT" category. 200 million gallons of oil dumped into the Gulf and *poof* it evaporated....
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    That's what the conventional thinking was just several weeks ago. Some oil does evaporate. Some oil does get eaten by microbes. Some oil does disperse in the water. However, that was a sh*tload of oil shooting into the gulf.

    The only problem I have with the article is that it is speculative and not definitive, using terms like "may have" settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. And then they don't provide any data to show how they arrive at the speculative conclusion. Did they send a research vehicle down there? If so, how deep is the oil where it has settled, etc.?

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    Elite Member lurkur's Avatar
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    Are they expecting people to eat that seafood?? Send it to the "leaders" in Washington and BP to eat until this is all finished and cleaned up, and give the people real food.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I'll eat it. There's no way it's any greasier than the shrimp they've been serving at Copeland's for the last several decades.

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    Elite Member cupcake's Avatar
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    Our charter boats are waiting from word from BP, I wouldnt trust them or the seafood. Im not taking any chances, but boy oh boy are these guys suffering a huge loss
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    Elite Member calcifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    The only problem I have with the article is that it is speculative and not definitive, using terms like "may have" settled to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. And then they don't provide any data to show how they arrive at the speculative conclusion. Did they send a research vehicle down there? If so, how deep is the oil where it has settled, etc.?
    you're right. it's also full of scientific inaccuracies.

    USF Scientists Detect Oil on Gulf Floor

    Researchers observe evidence oil has become toxic to critical marine life.

    By Vickie Chachere
    USF.edu News Manager

    ST. PETERSBURG (Aug. 17, 2010) – University of South Florida marine scientists conducting experiments in an area of the Gulf of Mexico where clouds of oil from the BP spill were found now have discovered what appears to be oil in sediments of a vital underwater canyon and observed evidence that the oil has become toxic to critical marine organisms.

    In preliminary results, the scientists aboard the R/V Weatherbird II discovered that oil-droplets are distributed on the Gulf's marine sediments in the DeSoto Canyon. The canyon is a critical area that provides nutrient-rich waters that support the spawning grounds of commercially important fish species on the West Florida Shelf.

    The preliminary findings may suggest that sub-surface oil is emerging onto the West Florida Shelf though the canyon, a geologic feature located east-northeast of the Deepwater Horizon well site. To date, this is the eastern-most location for the occurrence of sub-surface oils.

    Meanwhile, laboratory tests conducted aboard the Weatherbird II on the effects of oil have found that phytoplankton – the microscopic plants which make up the basis of the Gulf's food web – and bacteria have been negatively impacted by surface and subsurface oil. These field-based results are consistent with shore-based laboratory studies that showed phytoplankton are more sensitive to chemical dispersants than the bacteria, which are more sensitive to oil.

    The observations from the scientists are pending confirmation in further laboratory tests at USF's College of Marine Science. TheWeatherbird II carrying 14 researchers and six crew members returned to St. Petersburg Monday from a 10-day research venture.

    The researchers found:

    Water and sediment samples from east of the Deepwater Horizon wellhead (stations DSH 8, DSH9, DSH10) and at the edge of the DeSoto Canyon (station PCB-03) on the outer continental shelf are emitting visible fluorescence when examined under UV light, resulting in signals that match BP's MC252 oil.

    Excitation Emission Matrix Fluorescence Spectroscopy (EEMS) of these water samples also indicated the presence of oil-like hydrocarbons. The UV-induced fluorescence, which has been digitally photographed, resembles a dense constellation of microscopic blue stars on the sediment surface and in the filter pads.

    Fluorescence continued after five hours of freezing, suggesting that the fluorescence was not caused by living organisms. Minerals or other non-oil materials may also fluoresce in this manner, requiring the samples undergo further testing through molecular organic geochemical and compound-specific isotope analyses. Those tests will allow scientists to verify whether the fluorescence was due to the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons and whether the hydrocarbons are associated with BP's oil.

    Biosensor assays indicate that marine organisms, phytoplankton and bacteria, express a strong toxic response in subsurface and surface waters that show positive indicators of petroleum hydrocarbons. Two toxicity tests were employed: the Microtox Assay (SDI) and the QwikLite 200 Biosensor System (Assure Controls, Inc.) Both assays detect a toxic response as suppression of bioluminescence induced by the sample.

    For Gulf samples, the dinoflagellate (QwikLite) assay indicated that the subsurface samples (the DHS08 sample taken at 275 meters depth and the PCB03 sample taken at 50 meters depth) had the greatest toxic responses followed by samples from DHS08 at 215 meters depth, PCB03 at 35 meters depth, and DHS10 at 60 meters depth.

    These samples have not yet been statistically verified, yet 39 percent of the samples tested showed some degree of toxicity. DCMU/fluorometry, an indicator of phytoplankton health, confirmed that phytoplankton photosynthesis was stressed at the same stations that were determined to be toxic.

    The bacterial (Microtox) assay indicated that the samples of surface waters of DHS08, DHS09, and FT1 were toxic - or 3 of the 14 stations (21.4 percent) had positive results. These field-based results are consistent with shore-based laboratory studies that showed that the dinoflagellate assay was more sensitive to dispersant than the bacterial assay which was more sensitive to oil.

    - These results indicate that a further, coordinated, comprehensive study and survey is needed to determine how extensive the contamination.

    The August 6-16 Weatherbird II research cruise was funded by USF's Research Foundation and led by chemical oceanographer David Hollander, biological oceanographers John Paul and Kendra Daly and geological oceanographer David Naar.
    Current News - University of South Florida

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