However, the saga is not over. The oil has not magically disappeared and there is still no plan to remove millions of gallons of dispersed, dissolved and sunken oil from our Gulf. EPA has yet to determine the toxicity of oil and dispersant mixture and therefore seafood safety is based on piecemeal data. In fact, EPA has backed themselves into a corner by originally telling BP to use a less toxic dispersant, not having the power to make them, now perhaps unable to talk about the toxicity without implicating themselves. NOAA has consistently downplayed the facts and minimized the consequences of this spill to the point of much of the scientific community losing faith in them.
The best chance of us getting the truth is from independent scientific inquiry; some is already being made public. Unfortunately these studies are getting harder and harder to find unless you are diligently looking for them. Below are some examples of solid independent studies shedding light on what is really happening in the Gulf:
Georgia Sea Grant released an excellent counter to the infamous NOAA pie chart which media, and sadly many government officials, have used to speculate how much oil is left. One misconception is that dissolved and dispersed oil is "gone", this is far from true. Another is that microorganisms will eat the rest; the truth is scientists do not know at what rate this is happening and, according to this study, microorganisms do not eat the most toxic parts of the oil , PAH's, the carcinogenic component. (Add to this the fact that dispersants increase bioaccumulation of PAH's and you potentially have a serious issue regarding the health of our Gulf species). According to this Georgia Sea Grant study, 70-79% of the oil remains in some form, in our Gulf. (That is roughly 143 to 162 million gallons, mixed with nearly 2 million gallons of dispersant). Here is a 5 page summary of the study, well worth the time to read: http://uga.edu/aboutUGA/joye_pkit/GeorgiaSeaGrant_OilSpillReport8-16.pdf. Below is their interpretation of the pie chart.
A quote from a CNN report: "Initial findings from a new survey of the Gulf conclude that dispersants may have sent the oil to the ocean floor, where it has turned up at the bottom of an undersea canyon within 40 miles of the Florida Panhandle. Plankton and other organisms showed a "strong toxic response" to the crude, according to researchers from the University of South Florida." The full story can be found here: http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/08/16/gulf.oil.environment/
USF has released another study regarding the toxicity of oil and dispersants found in oil plumes as far east as due south of Panama City. "The preliminary findings may suggest that sub-surface oil is emerging onto the West Florida Shelf though the canyon, a geologic feature located east-northeast of the Deepwater Horizon well site. To date, this is the eastern-most location for the occurrence of sub-surface oils. Meanwhile, laboratory tests conducted aboard the Weatherbird II on the effects of oil have found that phytoplankton - the microscopic plants which make up the basis of the Gulf's food web - and bacteria have been negatively impacted by surface and subsurface oil. These field-based results are consistent with shore-based laboratory studies that showed phytoplankton are more sensitive to chemical dispersants than the bacteria, which are more sensitive to oil." The full article can be found here: http://usfweb3.usf.edu/absoluteNM/templates/?a=2604&z=120
Another study done by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found an underwater plume at least 22 miles long. They also found very slow degradation rates and suggested that the oil "will persist for some time". A very disturbing quote from the article: "The researchers detected a class of petroleum hydrocarbons at concentrations of more than 50 micrograms per liter. The water samples collected at these depths had no odor of oil and were clear. "The plume was not a river of Hershey's Syrup," said Reddy. "But that's not to say it isn't harmful to the environment." The entire article can be found here: http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=7545&tid=282&cid=79926&ct=162
An excellent interview with Riki Ott and independent journalist Dahr Jamail regarding recovery efforts and dispersants can be found here: http://oildisasterresponse.weebly.com/
Another excellent article released by the Journal of the American Medical Association regarding potential health impacts here: http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/jama.2010.1254?eaf
Just a few reminders:
1. If you have not written EPA about dispersants please do so taday. Several members have already received a response to their hand-written letters, they are hearing us! Details here: http://www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org/2010/06/28/375/
2. All memberships and donation are being matched by Jack Johnson's charity foundation through October 15th. Double your impact today! http://www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org/donate/
3. Emerald Coastkeeper has received a grant to do some dispersant sampling. We are working with all the Gulf Waterkeepers on a Gulfcoast wide sampling plan. More details will follow soon.
4. There are several upcoming events, details here: http://www.emeraldcoastkeeper.org/events/
We would all like to believe that the crisis is over, that we could have "our lives back". The truth is there are far more questions than answers, and unless we demand those answers, then BP will have succeeded in creating the story that now that we cannot see the oil all is well. Speculation based on wishful thinking is not acceptable and we all need to hold government officials accountable to the job our tax dollars pay them to do, that alone should be enough for us to continue to demand answers. Keep screamin!
Chasidy Fisher Hobbs
Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.
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