Long-term BP Impacts: UNO biologist says too soon to tell - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Long-term BP Impacts: UNO biologist says too soon to tell

This week a research team from Texas A&M came up with some of the most conclusive findings yet, as to the damage caused by the BP disaster on the Gulf floor. But a leading UNO researcher says it may be too soon to say that it will take decades for the sea bed to repair itself.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster pumped an estimated 4.6 million barrels of sweet Louisiana crude into the Gulf of Mexico. And a study from Texas A&M says all that oil impacted over 57 square miles.

"This was a volcanic gusher under the sea floor, underneath a mile of water," said researcher Paul Montana, with Texas A&M.

Dr. Montana found that both the surface of the Gulf and deep water both were impacted by oil plumes that extended nearly 11 miles to the southwest of the disaster, and over five miles to the northeast, with possibly the worst effects on the ocean floor itself. That's where tiny shrimp-like creatures have all but disappeared, in favor of a more resilient type of ocean floor worm.

"The more tolerant or resistant species will tend to dominate after a disturbance," said UNO's Barney Rees, who reviewed the findings.

Those findings come after a lengthy study of 35 samples taken on four dates within three months of the July 2010 spill.

BP paid Texas A&M and NOAA for part of the research, but Dr. Montana insists steps were taken to ensure independent results.

Montana worries that the effects of the spill on the ocean floor could last decades.  "If you think about it, I'm very concerned that any oil or organic material will stick around for a long, long time, decades perhaps," he said.

But UNO's Rees says it may be too soon to predict how long the effects might last. "It was an educated guess, and to latch on to the suggestion that there might be a long lasting effect, and for the headline to say that the recovery will take decades, is not really accurate," said Dr. Rees.

Rees also says, while BP was a disaster producing heavy to moderate damage in a 60-square mile area, the Gulf dead zone is a bigger issue. "We're talking about an area that in the worst years has been 9,000 square miles," said Rees.

Scientists agree, to fully understand the impacts of the BP disaster, more study will be needed.

Dr. Montana says the best hope for the ocean floor's repair will be from new sediment pouring over the area from the Mississippi River, which is about 40 miles from the Macondo site. But no one knows how long that might take.

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