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Oil found on sea floor in Gulf

Researchers discover oil up to two inches thick coating bottom, warn of dangers for sea life.

ATLANTA | September 15, 2010

"It wasn’t here in May, right after the spill started. This layer has developed over the past four months."

—Samantha Joye, University of Georgia

Researchers on Wednesday at the Gulf of Mexico said that they have found a layer of oil as thick as two inches coating the sea floor in various places, and they believe that it may be from the BP oil spill, CNN reported.

“I think what we’re seeing is oil that was on the surface, that has sediment down to the bottom,” said Samantha Joye from the University of Georgia. She said she was on a research vessel around 30 miles southeast of the former Deepwater Horizon well, and said that about a dozen core samples of the seabed were taken.

She described the oil as “flocculent,” and fluffy like fallen snow, she also said that the oil ranged in thickness from less than a quarter-inch to over two inches. She reported that there was an unusual lack of life that is typically in the area, like worms and various types of arthropods. She also speculated that that fish and invertebrates that go to the seabed to forage would be harmed by even traces of the substance.

However, Joye emphasized that her findings were preliminary and that nothing could be confirmed until the team was on land. She said that the team would use “fingerprinting” to see if the oil had come from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil well. An analyst from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned against jumping to conclusions before the samples are analyzed. “To find oil in the Gulf of Mexico, either in the sediments or in the water column, is not an unusual thing,” said Samuel Walker, technical data manager for NOAA. “There’s spillage from other vessels, there’s leakage from pipelines […] there are a lot of natural seeps.”

Joye countered that point, however, saying that natural seepage is unlikely, given that just a few months earlier in the same area her team found no evidence of oily sediment. “It wasn’t here in May, right after the spill started,” she said. “This layer has developed over the past four months.”

NOAA said they are still investigating the waters for residual traces and plumes. “We see the indications of this oil still down there,” David Valentine, a research with the agency, said. “But we don’t know exactly what the concentrations are, how biodegraded it is.”

Copyright 2010 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.

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