Gulf ecosystem threatened by BP oil spill
The BP oil spill is widely regarded as the worst man-made environmental disaster in American history. It hit one of the richest ecosystems in America with about 200 million gallons of crude oil. In his oval office address to the nation on the spill, President Barack Obama said: “The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.” As of August 2010, 79 percent of the oil “has not been recovered and remains a threat to the ecosystem” reported researchers at the University of Georgia. Since then, the Macondo well, the source of the spill, has been plugged, but a debate remains about the long term effects of the disaster on the regions ecology. (White House)
Weitz & Luexenburg currently represents over 500 people in the Gulf Coast. We are dedicated to providing you with in-depth information and updates on the ecological impact of the BP oil spill.
Oil plumes and dead zones
Much of the environmental debate is focused on the vast amounts of oil clumps or “plumes” that were discovered under the water surface near the Macondo well. These oil plumes raised large concerns about long term damage to the Gulf’s marine ecosystem. (Live Science)
Unlike oil that gathers on the water’s surface, the deepwater oil plumes deplete the sea’s oxygen.
This depletion could cause “dead zones” in the water where it would be impossible for any of the Gulf’s marine life to live. According to figures from marine scientists, oxygen levels in the area have already dropped by 30 percent since the oil spill. Samantha Joye, professor of marine sciences at the University of Georgia explained that the oil plumes could poison marine life for about a decade. (The Week)
In September 2010, a research team from New York’s Columbia University conducted studies in the Gulf of Mexico to measure the magnitude and location of the oil plumes. Their data revealed evidence of oil contamination in the sea’s food chain, and also in large marine mammals such as whales and dolphins. The researchers said that when these clumps of oil pile up on the sea floor, the entire food chain of marine life is put at great risk.
Marine mammal expert Martin Mendez of the American Museum of Natural History said "We really don't know much about the effect of the oil spill in cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and tortoises), because the effects are likely to be long term.” Mendez added that scientists have discovered 89 dead dolphins and one dead whale since the oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
It still may take several months, or even several years, to begin to determine what the effects of the spilled oil will be on the Gulf’s ecosystem.
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