Beneath the Surface of the BP Oil Spill
It has been over three years since the largest oil spill in U.S. history. In April of 2010 an oilrig just off the coast of Louisiana erupted and eventually sank, causing millions of gallons of oil to leak into the Gulf of Mexico. For an excruciating 87 days, an estimated 4.9 million barrels spread throughout hundreds of miles of coastline, before the leak was capped on July 15, 2010.
For those 87 days the world watched as the oil spill threatened such a fragile ecosystem. But now, three years later, it is as if the spill has been declared cleared or finished. More recent and somehow more important issues have erased this problem from majority of the publics view, causing less awareness and education upon the effects of this event. The politicians have voided into other terms of importance and the clean-up efforts are currently packing up. The surrounding ecosystems appear fine, better than the months following the BP oil spill, so why stay and continue cleaning what looks to be “complete”. Though there is one major question that is being overlooked: What is beneath the surface?
During the massive BP explosion, the majority believed that oil floats and that there wouldn’t truly be drastic effects to the ocean floor. But, in course, this theory was proven wrong. When oil is leaked into the water, it can be dispersed in three different ways. Like the majority thought, it can float to the surface forming an oil streamline that can spread rapidly due to winds. It can also float to midlevel of the ocean table, mixing with seawater causing the oil to stay suspended underwater. Lastly, and the most dangerous of ways, the oil can settle onto the ocean floor causing damage to deep-sea coral as well as other unseen ecosystems.
Besides halting commercial fishing, endangering aquatic species, and contaminating shorelines major oil spills and leaks can cause the most problems under the surface. Oil seeps into the soil and sediments of the ocean floor and all throughout aquatic ecosystems. No one is exactly sure what the scale of effects the spill has on the ocean floor but from the 1986 spill in Panama, a marine ecologist by the name of Dr. Jeremy Jackson recalled to “never allow oil to get into a complex coastal system of mangroves, sea grasses, and coral reefs, because you’ll never get it out.”
The 2010 Mexican Gulf spill is far from complete. Multiple teams of researchers are just beginning to collect data and examine the impact on the ocean floor. Three years later and people believe the cleanup of the 2010 oil spill is close to finished, but little do they know it will take many more years to come.
by Bailey Badger