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Fate of Oil Released by Deepwater Horizon Explosion

Six months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion occurred on April 20, which killed 11 oil rig workers and devastated the Gulf Coast ecosystem and economy with an unprecedented oil spill making it the largest man made disaster in the history of the United States, the leak at the Macondo well was finally capped on July 15.

Retired U.S. Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen, said about 5 months later, “We can now state definitively that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.”

In their report, the commission was critical of the government for both underestimating the amount of oil that remained in the Gulf and for presenting the budget as a scientific assessment, rather than “a rough operational tool.” The “findings were neither as clear nor as reassuring as the initial rollout suggested,” the commission wrote.

It singled out Carol Browner, the White House co-ordinator for energy and climate change, for stating on Aug. 4 that “more than three-quarters of the oil is gone.”
According to the New York Times, “A number of respected independent researchers have concluded that as much as half of the spilled oil remains suspended in the water or buried on the sea floor and in coastal sludge.”

In August, Samantha Joye, a marine scientist from the University of Georgia, found a layer of oily substance up to five centimetres thick covering the ocean floor in the region of the BP well.

The area closed to fishing reached a peak 225,290 square kilometres on June 21. That was the 18th expansion of the closure area of Gulf of Mexico federal waters, about 36 per cent of the total area.

More than 47,000 personnel were responding to the spill on July 8. On Oct. 13 about 16,300 were still deployed in cleanup and protecting the shoreline and wildlife.
About seven million litres of chemical dispersant had been applied by Sept. 17. (French biologist Philippe Bodin, who studied the effects of the Amoco Cadiz spill in 1978, found the dispersant to be more toxic to marine life than the oil and told National Geographic magazine he fears its massive use this time will be “catastrophic for the phytoplankton, zooplankton and larvae.” BP claims the dispersant is no more toxic than dishwashing soap.)

The latest report from the oil spill’s Unified Area Command shows that 2,080 oiled birds were collected alive. About 1,245 of those birds have been released.
6,104 dead birds were also collected.
535 sea turtles were collected alive, 362 released.
605 dead turtles have been collected.
278 sea turtle nests were transported.

Thirty per cent of U.S. oil production comes from the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil production in the Gulf increased 34 per cent in 2009.
The Gulf oil and gas industry employs 107,000 people. By comparison, the area’s tourism industry, which was devastated by the spill, employs 524,000.

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