Scientists Discover Thick Layer of Oil Stretching for Miles on Gulf Sea Floor
By Marian Wang in ProPublica
Scientists conducting research in the Gulf have found a thick layer of oily sediment on the ocean floor stretching for miles.
“We have to [chemically] fingerprint it and link it to the Deepwater Horizon,” Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia, told NPR. “But the sheer coverage here is leading us all to come to the conclusion that it has to be sedimented oil from the oil spill, because it’s all over the place.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about oil being found on the sea floor. Last month, scientists from the University of South Florida had used UV lighting to detect what they believed to be oil spread across the sediment on the bottom of the Gulf.
At the time, scientist David Hollander had described the oil’s distribution as not “a blanket of oil,” but rather a “constellation of stars.”
The new findings, according to NPR, “strongly suggest” that at least in some places in the Gulf, the oil on the bottom is less like a drizzle and more like a blizzard: thin in some places, but more than two inches thick in others.
Joye suggested that the application of dispersants may have something to do with the oily sediment.
“Nobody should be surprised,” Joye, the marine scientist, told ABC News. “When you apply large scale dispersants, it goes to the bottom — it sediments out. It gets sticky.”
She also said that based on the samples her team tested, the oil is not from natural seepage. The oily layer was found as far as 70 miles away from BP’s ruptured well, and Joye said the team has yet to collect samples close to the wellhead.
While the government initially published a rosy report estimating that most of the oil from the Gulf was gone, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also acknowledged the effects of the spill could linger for decades.
This article originally appeared in ProPublica.