Major study charts long-lasting oil plume in Gulf

Thursday, August 19, 2010
By Paul Martin

By SETH BORENSTEIN
NewsYahoo.com
8-19-2010

WASHINGTON – A 22-mile-long invisible mist of oil is meandering far below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, where it will probably loiter for months or more, scientists reported Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume from the BP spill.

The most worrisome part is the slow pace at which the oil is breaking down in the cold, 40-degree water, making it a long-lasting but unseen threat to vulnerable marine life, experts said.

Earlier this month, top federal officials declared the oil in the spill was mostly “gone,” and it is gone in the sense you can’t see it. But the chemical ingredients of the oil persist more than a half-mile beneath the surface, researchers found.

And the oil is degrading at one-tenth the pace at which it breaks down at the surface. That means “the plumes could stick around for quite a while,” said study co-author Ben Van Mooy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, which led the research published online in the journal Science.

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