Seven Maids With Seven Mops
NPR's "Morning Edition" reported yesterday on the amazing shrinking cleanup crews deployed by BP in the Gulf Coast following the capping of the Macondo well: from 46,000 on July 12 to 14,000 a month later. Oil gusher stopped so problem solved, right?
That seems to be NOAA's approach On August 4, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that "The vast majority of the oil from the BP oil spill has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed, recovered from the wellhead or dispersed -- much of which is in the process of being degraded."
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Not so fast! say researchers at Georgia Sea Grant and the University of Georgia. Their study concludes that "up to 79 percent of the oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the Deepwater Horizon well has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem." The discrepany between their estimation and NOAA's comes down to the latter's optimistic assumption that all that "dispersed, dissolved or residual" oil has just gone away and won't trouble us again.
“One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless,” said Charles Hopkinson, director of Georgia Sea Grant. “The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade."
While we're waiting for that degradation, the oil will presumably continue to wash up n the Gulf Coast's previously pristine beaches. According to NPR, BP is now deploying a device called a "Sand Shark" that scoops up sand and sifts it, sorting out the tar balls. "In a 5-minute run, [project leader Kevin] Seilhan says, the Sand Shark has cleaned more sand than 100 people could in three hours."
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.