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Report: Oil In Gulf Poses Only Slight Risk

From a deeply disappointed New York Times:

NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco briefs reporters at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010, regarding the BP oil spill.

U.S. Finds Most Oil From Spill Poses Little Additional Risk

August 4, 2010

WASHINGTON — The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.

Mind you, this is the worst oil spill in our nation’s history.

A government report finds that about 26 percent of the oil released from BP’s runaway well is still in the water or onshore in a form that could, in principle, cause new problems. But most is light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places

“There’s absolutely no evidence that there’s any significant concentration of oil that’s out there that we haven’t accounted for,” said Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead agency in producing the new report.

She emphasized, however, that the government remained concerned about the ecological damage that has already occurred and the potential for more, and said it would continue monitoring the gulf.

“I think we don’t know yet the full impact of this spill on the ecosystem or the people of the gulf,” Dr. Lubchenco said.

Among the biggest unanswered questions, she said, is how much damage the oil has done to the eggs and larvae of organisms like fish, crabs and shrimp. That may not become clear for a year or longer, as new generations of those creatures come to maturity.

And never mind that the selfsame federal government has long since re-opened most of the fishing areas in the Gulf and declared the seafood from there safe to eat. (See below.)

Thousands of birds and other animals are known to have been damaged or killed by the spill, a relatively modest toll given the scale of some other oil disasters that killed millions of animals…

We would like to see these figures. Apart from some birds, there has yet to be any evidence of the oil spill killing any sea creatures, at least according to previous reports from the New York Times.

It remains to be seen whether subtle, long-lasting environmental damage from the spill will be found, as has been the case after other large oil spills.

Like Ixtoc I? Which, by comparison, has almost no cleanup efforts.

The report, which is to be unveiled on Wednesday morning, is a result of an extensive effort by federal scientists, with outside help, to add up the total volume of oil released and to figure out where it went.

The lead agency behind the report, the oceanic and atmospheric administration, played down the size of the spill in the early days, and the Obama administration was ultimately forced to appoint a scientific panel that came up with far higher estimates of the flow rate from the well.

Ah, yes. Unbiased ‘science’ at work.

Whether the new report will withstand critical scrutiny is uncertain; advocacy groups and most outside scientists had not learned of it on Tuesday.

The government announced early this week that the total oil release, from the time the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20 until the well was effectively capped, was 4.9 million barrels, plus or minus 10 percent. That estimate makes the Deepwater Horizon disaster the largest marine spill in history. It is surpassed on land by a 1910 spill in the California desert.

This is the first time anywhere we have seen the mention of the Lakeview Gusher. The Times editors must have decided it is finally safe to mention it now.

The outcome for much of the oil could not be directly measured, but had to be estimated using protocols that were scrutinized by scientists inside and outside the government, Dr. Lubchenco said.

The report calculates, for example, that about 25 percent of the chemicals in the oil evaporated at the surface or dissolved into seawater in the same way that sugar dissolves in tea. (The government appears to have settled on a conservative number for that estimate, with the scientific literature saying that as much as 40 percent of the oil from a spill can disappear in this way.)

The aggressive response mounted by BP and the government — the largest in history, ultimately involving more than 5,000 vessels — also played a role in getting rid of the oil, the report says. Fully 5 percent of the oil was burned at the surface, it estimates, while 3 percent was skimmed and 8 percent was broken up into tiny droplets using chemical dispersants.

So, at most, the ‘largest response in history’ only got rid 16% of the oil – tops? And this is oil that eventually would have been absorbed anyway (like sugar in tea) by the Gulf Of Mexico, if left to its own devices.

Another 16 percent dispersed naturally as the oil shot out of the well at high speed.

All told, the report calculates that about 74 percent of the oil has been effectively dealt with by capture, burning, skimming, evaporation, dissolution or dispersion.

Way to confuse the issue by comingling the natural and man-made solutions.

Much of the dissolved and dispersed oil can be expected to break down in the environment, though federal scientists are still working to establish the precise rate at which that is happening.

“I think we are fortunate in this situation that the rates of degradation in the gulf ecosystem are quite high,” Dr. Lubchenco said.

The remaining 26 percent of the oil “is on or just below the surface as light sheen or weathered tar balls, has washed ashore or been collected from the shore, or is buried in sand and sediments,” the report says

Testing of fish has shown little cause for worry so far, and fishing grounds in the gulf are being reopened at a brisk clip. At one point the government had closed 36 percent of federal gulf waters to fishing, but that figure is now down to 24 percent and is expected to drop further in coming weeks

To borrow from Bertolt Brecht and the Vietnam protesters of yore, ‘what if they gave an environmental disaster and nobody came?’

This article was posted by Steve on Wednesday, August 4th, 2010. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Report: Oil In Gulf Poses Only Slight Risk”

  1. proreason says:

    Now I know for sure whether seafood from the Gulf is safe.

    The gubamint has declared it is safe.

    So I ain’t eating any for about 6 more months.

    And anecdotally, I was talking with somebody just yesterday who developed a severe rash after eating some Gulf oysters. But make your own decision. The government rarely makes errors and always has the best interest of the public at heart.

    • Liberals Demise says:

      Roger that, pro.
      Shrimp Scampi with a Purolator oil filter kills the taste and is unsightly on the dinner plate.

  2. Right of the People says:

    “Much of the dissolved and dispersed oil can be expected to break down in the environment, though federal scientists are still working to establish the precise rate at which that is happening.”

    By the time they figure it out, it will all be gone. Too bad we can’t say that about this administration.

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