2theadvocate.com | News | Conflicting reports stir Gulf oil dispute Baton Rouge, LA
A federal official on Wednesday defended a recent report in which government scientists said that only about a quarter of the oil that gushed from BP’s ruptured Gulf of Mexico well was still in the water.
Scientists from the University of Georgia challenged the report earlier this week when they issued a report that said from 70 percent to 79 percent of the oil is still under the water, mostly in the form of dispersed droplets.
The University of Georgia scientists said they believe that “most of the dispersed and dissolved forms of oil are still present and not necessarily harmless.”
The government said in its report that 24 percent of the oil was either naturally or chemically dispersed, meaning that the oil was broken down into small droplets that sank below the water’s surface.
“We know that that oil is out there,” Jane Lubchenco, administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said during a briefing Wednesday.
Lubchenco said the government did say in its report that the dispersed oil was still in the water, but she said that oil is diluted and is now in amounts measured by parts per million.
“But ‘dilute’ and ‘dispersed’ does not mean ‘benign,’ which is why we continue to be concerned about the possible impacts it may have had or is having,” she added.
About 4.1 million barrels of oil are estimated to have gushed into the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded April 20, killing 11 workers, and collapsed into the water two days later. The spill was capped July 15.
The government’s oil budget report, issued Aug. 4, said that beyond the 24 percent that was dispersed, some 25 percent of the oil evaporated or dissolved, 25 percent was recovered, and 26 percent was on, buried or cleaned up from beaches, or was just below the water’s surface.
Chuck Hopkinson, director of the University of Georgia’s Sea Grant program and one of the leaders of that school’s study, said only 21 percent of the oil is likely “gone” by evaporation, burning, skimming and containment.
The rest of the oil — or 2.9 million to 3.2 million barrels — is still likely in the water, Hopkinson said.
“The idea that 75 percent of the oil is gone and is of no further concern to the environment is just absolutely absurd,” Hopkinson said.
Lubchenco questioned the university’s estimate that only 7 percent of the oil that’s gone has evaporated, calling that number “very, very low.”