Can you complete the following sentence? The BP oil spill is now ___________. If you used words or phrases such as "contained", "over", "capped", "out of the news" or "under control", you have unfortunately fallen prey to the mind play of the mainstream media. The oil spill is none of these things except perhaps out of the news. In fact, the aftermath of the biggest environmental disaster in history has not yet begun.
In early August, the mainstream media reiterated for days regarding the Obama administration's claim that most of the oil spewed from BP's well is either gone or widely dispersed. The lies were exposed at lightening speed.
Some estimates claim as much as 90% of leaked oil is still floating in the gulf
. The latest estimate, writes Randy Rieland
at environmental hub Grist, is that "only 10 percent of the oil that gushed out of the Deepwater Horizon well was 'actually removed from the ocean.'" That's one of the more "pessimistic" estimates thus far, and comes from an oceanographer at Florida State University. It's also "wildly at odds with what the feds have been saying--that as much as 75 of the oil is gone."
Marine biologist Stephen Mottram says that the current toxic load in the Gulf which is venturing well out into Atlantic waters will eventually threaten a large percentage of the world's phytoplankton community
. "The balance and concentration of phytoplankton in the upper benthic layer is critical to the a major portion of world's oxygen and this community is now being exposed to major threat from the BP disaster and so-called clean up."
at Mother Jones focuses on a separate study, a "simulation of oil and methane leaked into the Gulft" which "suggests that deep hypoxic zones, also known as dead zones, could form near the source of the pollution. ... Dead zones," she explains, "occur where oxygen levels have dropped below the threshold to support most marine life." Here's the problem, she continues: "the last thing the Gulf of Mexico needs is anymore dead zones. It's already home to the second largest dead zone on Earth, a side-effect of fertilizer overuse in North America's breadbasket."
The LA Times reported on a hearing
on Capitol Hill where a NOAA official conceded that three-fourths of the pollutants from the 4.1 million barrels spewed into the gulf are still lingering in the environment.
Bill Lehr, senior scientist with NOAA’s Office of Restoration and Response, said booming and burning probably cleaned up only about 10% of the spilled oil. Much of the oil has evaporated or dispersed, but remains a source of hydrocarbons in the ecosystem, he said.
“This is a continuing operation,” Lehr emphasized. "The spill is far from over. We’re beginning a new phase, and NOAA and all the other agencies will be involved in this.”
If only 10% of the spilled oil was actually recovered, that is equivalent to the 10% to 15% recoveries scientists estimated were possible from a major spill at the time of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster, Markey noted. “So it seems to me that BP comes in only at the low end of what was possible 20 years ago.... I think it’s important that even using a 21-year-old grading system, that BP has done a very poor job in cleaning up the gulf.”
At a the Gulf Oil Spill and Seafood Safety Government Panel of the House Committee Energy & Commerce on August 19, 2010, Professor Ian MacDonald from Florida State University stated that the "oil has already degraded...it has already evaporated and emulsified. It is going to be very resistant to further biodegradation." He concluded his statement by suggesting that the imprint of the BP oil release will be detectable for the rest of his life, to which he then stated his current age of 58.
Professor Emeritus Overton stated just yesterday
to the project impact crew
that “you have… weathered oil on the beaches. Storms can whip [oil] up as an aerosol and can spread it around.”
In another meeting by the Gulf Oil Spill and Seafood Safety Government Panel, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) admits it is NOT testing for mercury arsenic, or other toxic heavy metals in seafood despite giving the ok the fisheries to continue distribution to seafood wholesalers and retailers.
Scientists from both the Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA said they are confident that seafood coming from the newly opened areas of the gulf is safe to eat. Testing for hydrocarbons and residuals from the 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants used to break up the oil showed no dangerous contaminants, they said.
Angered by claims from state and federal officials that Gulf Coast waters are safe and clean, fishermen took their own samples of the waters off of Pass Christian, Mississippi on August 11th, 2010.
The testing method was a simple tie an absorbent rag to a weighted hook which was then dropped overboard for a minute or two. In all but one of the samples, the rags came up with brown oily substance which the fishermen identify as a mix of crude oil from the BP disaster and toxic dispersants proving that much of the claims made by BP and government agencies regarding the disappearance of crude oil are unreliable.
Scientists are also on high alert now following the confirmed shutdown of the Gulf loop current
which is now confirmed and correlated to the biochemical and physical action of the BP oil spill on the Gulf stream. The shutdown of the current not only influences the strength of hurricanes but the climate of the entire planet.
In mid July millions of fish and other water life were found dead
, floating down four major rivers in the Eastern department of Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The media initially announced that about 1 million fish had died, then raised that number to about 6 million several days later. Not a word of this was stated in the mainstream media. Scientists are frantically assessing the cause and examining everything from pollution to abrupt cooling off the coast of South America.
USF marine scientists conducting experiments in an area where they previously found clouds of oil have now discovered what appears to be oil in the sediment of a vital underwater canyon and evidence that the oil has become toxic to critical marine organisms, the college reported last Tuesday.
In preliminary results, the scientists aboard the Weatherbird II discovered that oil droplets are scattered on sediment in the DeSoto Canyon, a critical spawning ground for commercially important fish species about 40 miles southeast of Panama City.
The oil isn't spread across the sandy bottom like a blanket, explained David Hollander. Instead, when the scientists shined ultraviolet light on the sediment samples, it picked up lots of dots from tiny oil droplets.
USF's scientists also found that the oil droplets were toxic to some phytoplankton, microscopic plants that form the base of the gulf's food chain, as well as some bacteria. The oil doesn't accumulate within the plankton, but rather kills it.
If the droplets wipe out enough phytoplankton, it could alter the food supply for larger creatures such as fish and crabs in the same way a cattle pasture that loses all its grass alters the food supply for steak fans.
Stephen Mottram estimates that if there is as little as a 20% reduction in phytoplankton populations, a catastrophic sequence of global cooling would occur. "...this will cause a cascade of phenomenon that will eventually affect almost every organism in the world....climate would inevitably change globally as reductions in phytoplankton would directly influence temperate climates causing them to shift to cooler tempertures."
Mottram's primary concern is that the increased number of dead zones in the Gulf will spread to the entire Atlantic ocean and beyond in due time. "It is a literal poisoning and suffocation of the ocean and all marine life. Once nutrient cycling slows down or comes to a halt for the primary producers, more than 90% of marine life will die and the consequences to all mammals (including humans) will be devastating."
Many findings are highlighting the persistent concerns that spraying chemical dispersants deep beneath the water's surface may have created a greater peril for the gulf and its marine life.
Rather than rising to the top of the gulf, where the water is warm and deterioration and evaporation are rapid, the oil spread through colder waters where it has persisted.
At this point, no one knows how long it will take for the oil to deteriorate so that it is no longer toxic. However, Hollander said, recent studies have found indications that the rate is "orders of magnitude slower" in the colder, deeper parts of the gulf.
In hindsight, Hollander said, "there's risks that were taken that could have been avoided" by not spraying the dispersants directly at the gushing wellhead.
The amazing thing, he said, is that the disaster has been going on since April "and we're now addressing these first-order questions."
Technically speaking, the disastrous consequences of the BP oil spill have barely begun. It will take years before we know the full ecological impact and potentially catastrophic climate phenomena that will result. So the next time somebody approaches you to fill in the blank, please set them straight on the realities of what we are up against.
Kelley Bergman is a media consultant, critic and geopolitical investigator. She has worked as a journalist and writer, specializing in geostrategic issues around the globe.