University of South Florida scientists said Tuesday they've found oil spread across the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, backing suggestions from scientists that dispersed oil from the BP spill remains an environmental threat.
A federal science team earlier this month issued a report saying that 74 percent of 205 million gallons of leaked oil had been collected or burned, dispersed, evaporated or dissolved. That left more than 50 million gallons that had washed ashore and been collected or remained in the sand and waters.
USF announced Tuesday that scientists aboard the Weatherbird II research vessel this month found oil in water and sediments on the top edge of the DeSoto Canyon about 40 miles southwest of Panama City Beach. That means deep clouds of oil and chemical dispersants from the spill site off Louisiana could be moving up towards the shallower continental shelf along the Panhandle and Florida's west coast where it can affect bottom-dwelling sea creatures, the researchers said. Furthermore, tests suggests that phytoplankton and bacteria were being harmed by the oil spill. The findings suggest that the spill could play a role in the food chain and Gulf ecosystem for years to come.
"We realize the obvious surface oil is gone but that doesn't mean that small droplets of oil don't exist beneath the surface," chemical oceanographer David Hollander said. USF officials said the findings show the need for a coordinated and comprehensive approach for studying the effects of the Gulf spill.
Likewise, the University of Georgia and Georgia Sea Grant on Tuesday released a report stating that up to 79 percent of the oil released during the spill has not been recovered and remains a threat in the Gulf ecosystem.
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