According to Doctor Samantha B. Joye, from the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Georgia, involved in gathering data from the Gulf oil spill, “There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water.” She went on to say that, “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.” These plumes were discovered by scientific investigators from a number of universities working from aboard the Pelican, a research vessel.
The controversial chemical dispersants that have been used by British Petroleum (BP) to break the oil down into small droplets may have contributed to the creation of these plumes. The naturally occurring oil-eating bacteria “feeding” on this oil are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, for as they rapidly grow and divide they are consuming oxygen. Doctor Joye said the oxygen had already dropped 30 percent near some of the plumes in the month that the broken oil well had been flowing and, “If you keep those kinds of rates up, you could draw the oxygen down to very low levels that are dangerous to animals in a couple of months. That is alarming.” In addition, the natural rate of replenishment of oxygen in deep water from the surface is a slow process.
In my estimation this oil spill will prove to be an ecological disaster of immense proportions if the flow of oil is not stopped in a timely fashion. The fowling of the gulf with oil will add an additional insult to the acidification of the oceans that is a direct result of the ever-increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.