Gulf oil spill: research voyage to search for oil can't find any
Halfway through a 10-day voyage, a government-sponsored expedition isn't finding any traces from the Gulf oil spill, directly contradicting findings by several independent research teams.
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NOAA’s efforts are clashing with research expeditions from academic and environmental groups.Skip to next paragraph
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Rainer Amon, an assistant professor of marine science at Texas A&M University, reported Thursday his sampling showed remnants of an oil and gas plume about 300 miles from the Macondo wellhead and about 3,000 feet underwater. His testing was conducted during a 10-day expedition sponsored by Greenpeace. the environmental advocacy organization.
Mr. Amon said his measurements suggest that about four million barrels of oil still remain unaccounted for in the Gulf.
Baran would not comment on the Greenpeace report. She affirmed that NOAA’s “extensive water sampling all summer” has proved the oil near the Macondo well has “seen a decrease in concentration over time.”
At odds with other reports
NOAA is also having to answer to contrary findings reported earlier this month by Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia marine biologist whose team reported finding thick layers of oil deeply embedded on the ocean floor as far as 70 miles from the Macondo well site. Ms. Joye told ABC News that every sample her team collected was contaminated by oil from the April spill.
“We’re finding it everywhere that we’ve looked. The oil is not gone … it’s in places where nobody has looked for it,” she said.
Baran said NOAA’s research fleet plans to either visit or revisit sites Joye’s team have documented finding oil.
“We have not visited all her sites yet. We have not found any oil in sediments but we will continue to look,” she said.
Joye was also a member of a team of scientists that issued a report in mid-August that reported that 80 percent of the oil remained in the Gulf in a highly toxic state and that, due to the high volume of dispersants used near the Macondo site, it is impossible to estimate how long it will take for the oil to fully degrade. Another report issued around the same time by the University of South Florida in Tampa reported that dispersants were responsible for pushing oil into a deepwater canyon located about 40 miles off the Florida coast.
Baran said NOAA may “still have a long ways to go” before finishing its sampling program. “We’re trying to get to the whole answer here about the region’s impact,” she said.