Legacy of the Gulf of Mexico spill

BP has now scaled back its clean-up operations to 5000 vessels and fewer than 30,000 personnel, from 6500 vessels and 46,000 personnel. The focus has now moved from capturing, dispersing and burning off oil out at sea, to cleaning up shorelines and wetlands. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has stated that they believe up to three quarters of the oil has been captured, burnt or evaporated.

However there are concerns that the dispersed oil could now get into the food chain, according to Thomas Shirley, Professor of life sciences at Texas A&M University. He believes that the dispersed oil is broken up into micro molecules, which can get taken up into the food chain and could cause huge damage to wildlife without necessarily killing anything outright. Oil is not a substance that marine life is used to dealing with, as it does not occur naturally in such quantities. As such most marine life does not possess the ability to break down such compounds if they are ingested.

There are also concerns about the chemicals used to disperse the oil, firstly, because they make the oil easier to be absorbed by marine life, and secondly, there are concerns that the toxic chemicals they used to disperse the oil could remain in the oceans longer than the oil itself. Only time will tell how far reaching the effects of the spill will be on the environment in the Gulf of Mexico, but it is fair to say that it is unlikely to have a positive effect.

Published on 11/08/2010

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