Study finds massive amounts of oil from Deepwater Horizon disaster buried in Gulf of Mexico sediments

Oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico in July, 2009. PHOTO COURTESY NOAA.

A NASA satellite image shows oil spreading across the Gulf of Mexico.

‘It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Five years after BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drill rig spewed 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a significant amount of that oil remains buried in seafloor sediments.

A new study by a Florida State University researcher estimates that about 6 to 10 million gallons of oil are still there, perhaps decomposing slowly, but probably affecting Gulf ecosystems.

“This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come,” said researcher Jeff Chanton. “Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It’s a conduit for contamination into the food web,” he said. Continue reading

Environment: EPA eyes new rules for oil spill dispersants

Public comment sought on proposed standards

Dispersant being applied to the Gulf of Mexico.

Dispersant being applied to the Gulf of Mexico.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When BP’s failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig spewed millions of gallons of crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico nearly five years ago, the emergency response included the massive use of oil dispersants, chemicals meant to break up potential oil slicks before they reached the shoreline. Continue reading

Environment: Lawsuit seeks more government transparency for Gulf of Mexico fracking

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So how much fracking is there, exactly, in the Gulf of Mexico? Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

Fruitless FOIA request prompts legal action

Staff Report

FRISCO — The public may soon know more about offshore fracking operations in the Gulf of Mexico, as the Center for Biological Diversity sues the federal government in a quest for more transparency.

According to the lawsuit, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement must disclose permits, reports, emails and other documents related to the federal government’s approval for oil and gas companies to frack offshore wells in the Gulf. Continue reading

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

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

Study pinpoints threats to loggerhead sea turtles in Gulf

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Proposed critical habitat designations could help protect dwindling loggerhead sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico.

Findings may help protect dwindling population

Staff Report

FRISCO — The beleaguered population of loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feeds in areas affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where they are threatened by other human activities.

The feeding areas for 10 turtles overlapped with an area that experienced surface oiling during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These sites, and others, also overlapped with areas trawled by commercial fishing operations and used for oil and gas extraction, U.S. Geological Survey scientists said after tracking 59 nesting females. That could be about 15 percent of the entire breeding females in the Northern Gulf of Mexico—a small and declining subpopulation of loggerheads that is federally classified as threatened. 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

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