Millions of gallons of BP oil found on ocean's floor

Posted Jan 31, 2015 by Karen Graham
While Gulf Coast residents are feeling pretty good about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, thinking it's now less harmful than originally thought, scientists have found almost 10 million gallons of BP's oil, sitting on the bottom of the Gulf.
Dr. Brian Stacy  NOAA veterinarian  prepares to clean an oiled Kemp s Ridley sea turtle found almost...
Dr. Brian Stacy, NOAA veterinarian, prepares to clean an oiled Kemp's Ridley sea turtle found almost 40 miles from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, June 14, 2010.
NOAA's National Ocean Service
Almost 10 million gallons of crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 has been found buried under ocean sediment in the Gulf of Mexico, about 62 miles Southeast of the Mississippi Delta. Jeff Chanton, a professor at the University of Florida, and a member of the team of researchers who discovered the crude oil, says the find has grave implications for marine life and the health of the Gulf. The scientists used carbon 14, a natural radioisotope to map the sediment. Because oil does not contain carbon 14, it stood out like a sore thumb.
The massive amount of oil covers an area of 9,300 miles off the Southeast Coast of the Mississippi Delta. The research team published their findings in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. BP oil crews and government and environmental specialists have wondered for several years about what happened to about 10 million gallons of the crude oil never recovered.
A federal judge ruled on Jan. 16, 2015 that only 134 million gallons ( 3.19 million barrels) of crude oil was discharged into the Gulf during the accident. This figure was more than the 2.4 million barrels BP said was spilled and far less than the government's figures. Digital Journal reported that the judge reduced BP's maximum from $17.6 billion to $13.7 billion.
The researchers are saying the oil buried in the sediment will stay there for a long time, and that's the problem. Chanton, reporting in Phys.Org said, "This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come. Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It's a conduit for contamination into the food web."
Not only is the oil a source of contamination into the food web, but there is less oxygen on the ocean floor, relative to the water column, and once the particles of oil start getting less oxygen, it is all the more difficult for bacteria to break down the oil. This alone creates a couple of problems. One serious problem would be the disturbance of the sediment, as could happen during a hurricane. This would in effect, create another oil spill.
In addition, it has already been documented that the oil spill is linked to skin lesions in bottom-dwelling fish like the Red Snapper and Mahi-Mahi. The BP spill has also been linked to unhealthy and dying corals and a decline in Kemp's ridley sea turtles, a critically endangered species. And in January 2014, a NOAA study revealed an increase in hormonal abnormalities in bottlenose dolphins in Louisiana's Barataria Bay.
Even though BP officials have disputed all the studies done on the impact the Deepwater Horizon has created in the Gulf of Mexico, the bottom line is that BP's responsibility for this disastrous oil spill is going to adversely affect our environment for a long time to come. What is particularly tragic about this event is the fact that it has affected the food chain, with humans being the end of that chain, eating seafood from the Gulf contaminated with hydrocarbons.