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US report undermines BP spill effects

5 August 2010 5:31

Many scientists and Gulf of Mexico Coastal residents have raised doubt about a US government report suggesting the oil spill disaster is largely contained.

The Obama administration’s Wednesday report claimed that most of the estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked into the gulf was either ‘accounted for’ or effectively gone in a highly diluted form, suggesting that future damage from the oil spill would not be as great as it has been feared, The New York Times reported.

The report was not well received by those directly affected by the spill on the Gulf Coast, where many regarded it as new evidence that the Obama administration was getting ready to abandon them as the Bush administration did after Hurricane Katrina.

Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, confirmed that the relatively small amount of oil remaining on the water’s surface does not erase concerns about the long-term impact on marine life.

“I think the common view of most of the scientists inside and outside government is that the effects of this spill will likely linger for decades,” said Lubchenco.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said the report should not be used as justification to turn back the federal response.

“Even based on the federal government’s own estimates, there are still over 1 million barrels of oil in the Gulf,” the governor said in a written statement. “We must remain vigilant about the oil that remains a threat to our coast.”

Much of the skepticism about the report was linked to inaccurate federal estimates of the spill’s magnitude that had to be repeatedly revised upwards, going from 1,000 barrels a day to between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels per day.

The release of the report coincided with BP’s final efforts to permanently seal the well, which stopped leaking oil July 15 after being sealed with a temporary cap.

Some researchers attacked the report’s findings and methodology, calling it premature at best and sloppy at worst. They noted that a plenty of research was still under way to shed light on some of the main scientific issues raised in the report.

“A lot of this is based on modeling and extrapolation and very generous assumptions,” said Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia who has led some of the most important research on the Deepwater Horizon spill. “If an academic scientist put something like this out there, it would get torpedoed into a billion pieces.”

The Wednesday report claimed that only 26 percent of the oil had come ashore or was still in the water in a form that would break down quickly in the warm waters of the gulf.

That 26 percent, however, is equivalent to more than 53 million gallons of oil, five times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

BP reported that 2,300 barrels of mud forced down the well overnight, in an operation called a “static kill,” had pushed the crude back down to its source for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20. The explosion killed 11 workers and began the spill that sent tar balls washing onto beaches and oil oozing into delicate coastal marshes.

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