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Study finds Deepwater Horizon oil ‘fallout zone’

Satellite view deepwater horizon oil spill

A NASA satellite view shows oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Oily particles were raining down around these deep sea corals …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — More than four years after the disastrous failure of BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sent about 5 million barrels of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists said they’ve found a 1,250-square mile fallout zone, where some of the oil settled to the sea floor in a thin layer.

The researchers, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of California, Irvine sampled 534 locations during 12 expeditions in Gulf and collected more than 3,000 samples, finding that the oil is concentrated in the top half-inch of the sea floor. Continue reading

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Environment: $627 million restoration plan finalized to repair some of the damage from the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds targeted for restoration

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

A NASA satellite image shows the oil slick from the Deepwater Horizon disaster spreading across the northern Gulf of Mexico in late May, 2010.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Nearly four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling operation disastrously failed and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, NOAA and its partners have finalized a $627 million restoration plan. The formal record of decision released last week authorizes 44 projects to restore barrier islands, shorelines, dunes, underwater grasses and oyster beds.

This announcement marks the largest suite of Gulf early restoration projects selected thus far in the wake of the 2010 oil spill. The projects aim to address a range of injuries to natural resources and the subsequent loss of recreational use. Details of restoration efforts are outlined in the Final Programmatic and Phase III Early Restoration Plan and Early Restoration Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. Continue reading

Oil-eating microbes in the Gulf of Mexico left behind the most toxic remnants of the Deepwater Horizon spill

Impacts likely to persist for decades

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Oil: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil-eating microbes in the Gulf of Mexico may have helped break down some of the pollution from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, but some of the most toxic constituents of BP’s oil probably remain, most likely at the bottom of the sea.

Two new Florida State University studies in a deep sea oil plume found found that a species of bacteria called Colwellia likely consumed gaseous hydrocarbons and perhaps benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene compounds that were released as part of the oil spill — but not the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are a group of semi-volatile organic compounds that are present in crude oil and can cause long-term health problems such as cancer. Continue reading

Environment: More signs of coral damage from BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster

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Coral reefs miles away from the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster were afffected by the spill.

Ecological footprint of oil spill spread farther than previously believed

Staff Report

FRISCO — Oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster soiled seafloor corals more than 12 miles from the spill site, Penn State University researchers said after doing a detailed survey of the area.

“The footprint of the impact of the spill on coral communities is both deeper and wider than previous data indicated,” said Penn State biology professor Charles Fisher. “This study very clearly shows that multiple coral communities, up to 22 kilometers from the spill site and at depths over 1800 meters, were impacted by the spill,” Fisher said.

The oil from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has largely dissipated, so other clues now are needed to identify marine species impacted by the spill. Fisher’s team used the current conditions at a coral community known to have been impacted by the spill in 2010 as a model “fingerprint” for gauging the spill’s impact in newly discovered coral communities. Continue reading

Study: Exposure to crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster causes swimming deficiencies in juvenile mahi mahi

Evidence is mounting that BP’s oil harmed millions of large fish

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Crude oil spreads across a wide swath of the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with fouling beaches and wetlands along the Gulf Coast, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill also had profound impacts on the open ocean and deep sea environment. The four million barrels of crude oil that spewed into the Gulf of Mexico from BP’s failed oil drilling operation potentially exposed millions of fish and other ocean organisms to highly toxic compounds.

That includes many commercially and ecologically important open-ocean fish species such as bluefin and yellowfin tunas, mahi mahi, king and Spanish mackerels. In one of the most recent followup studies on the impacts of the spill, researchers with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science found that exposure to the crude oil resulted in decreased swimming performance in young mahi mahi. Continue reading

Sea-bottom ecosystems hit by 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster could take decades to recover

Study finds extensive loss of biodiversity

One of the impacted corals with attached brittle starfish. Although the orange tips on some branches of the coral is the color of living tissue, it is unlikely that any living tissue remains on this animal. PHOTO COURTESY Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.

One of the impacted corals with attached brittle starfish. Although the orange tips on some branches of the coral is the color of living tissue, it is unlikely that any living tissue remains on this animal. PHOTO COURTESY Lophelia II 2010, NOAA OER and BOEMR.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It will probably take decades for the sea-bottom ecosystem to recover from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers reported this week in the journal PLoS One, after finding that the spill affected sea-bottom biodiversity across 57 square miles around the wellhead, with the most severe impacts in a nine-square mile area.

Previous studies had also shown that the oil spill had damaging effects on deep-sea corals miles from the blown out Macondo Well. The failed well leaked an estimated 160 million gallons of oil into the sea in the spring and summer of 2010. An early survey of nine sites more than 12 miles from the Macondo Well found deep-water coral communities unharmed. But a followup dive by a remotely operated submarine about six miles southwest of the spill discovered numerous coral communities covered in a brown flocculent material and showing signs of tissue damage.

“The tremendous biodiversity of meiofauna in the deep-sea area of the Gulf of Mexico we studied has been reduced dramatically,” said Jeff Baguley,  University of Nevada, Reno expert on small invertebrates livING in both marine and fresh water. “Nematode worms have become the dominant species at sites we sampled that were impacted by the oil. So though the overall number of meiofauna may not have changed much, it’s that we’ve lost the incredible biodiversity.” Continue reading

Environment: Researchers still tracking oil leaks from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

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A massive slick from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill spreads across the Gulf of Mexico in July 2010. Photo courtesy NASA.

Oil ‘fingerprinting’ technique shows the oil is likely from the wreckage of the sunken drill rig

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Chemical fingerprints show that oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico are probably from pockets of oil trapped within the wreckage of the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. Both the Macondo well and natural oil seeps common to the Gulf of Mexico were confidently ruled out by researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The study was published online this week in Environmental Science & Technology.

The oil sheens were first reported to the United States Coast Guard by BP in mid-September 2012, raising public concern that the Macondo well, which was capped in July 2010, might be leaking.

“It was important to determine where the oil was coming from because of the environmental and legal concerns around these sheens. First, the public needed to be certain the leak was not coming from the Macondo well, but beyond that we needed to know the source of these sheens and how much oil is supplying them so we could define the magnitude of the problem,” said WHOI chemist Chris Reddy. Continue reading

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