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Deepwater Horizon continues to cause environmental problems

To state that, five years on from the Deepwater Horizon incident, oil is still surfacing and releasing dangerous vapors may seem far-fetched. Initial predictions from scientists were that fuming oil should have disappeared by now. However, this is not the case in Louisiana.

This effect has been picked up by crickets dying in high numbers. According to environmental scientist Linda Hooper-Bùi of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, interviewed by Science News, the reason for the cricket deaths is “a huge mystery.” No one can establish what the compound wafting from the oil to kill the crickets actually is.

Deepwater Horizon was one of the worst industrial accidents ever. On April 20, 2010 an oil-rig blast killed 11 rig workers and started an 87-day eruption of oil and gas. Over 5 million barrels of oil and hundreds of thousands of metric tons of gas gushed from the Macondo well, situated 1,500 meters below sea level.

The big environmental concern is that researchers do not know what happened to most of the oil. Only a quarter is accounted for. Scientists are continuing to find oil in blobs on the Gulf’s seafloor and on coastlines. This includes in the marshes, such as those of Louisiana, that are home to crickets and other creatures.

Furthermore, research suggests that around 16 percent of the approximately 5 million barrels of oil that burst into the Gulf of Mexico has settled into the seafloor. While gas-rich plumes were the most visual but short-lived feature of the spill’s aftermath, scientists have noted that the overall concentrations of methane remain very high.

As well as dying crickets, other effects on animals that are of concern include changes to the swimming behavior of aquatic creatures and disruption to the erratic beating of fish hearts. Fish have also been found with sunken eyes and other eye abnormalities within the region. Bottlenose dolphins also appear to be experiencing long-term effects.

Five years on, the damage from the oil disaster remains of oil and the new effects on the ecosystem continue to be discovered.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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