Gulf Oil Gone From Surface, But Residents Fear What Lies Beneath

July 28, 2010

(ChattahBox)—Most of the the foul-smelling and unsightly oil sheen on the surface of the Gulf has disappeared, after 86 nightmarish days of continual gushing and responders dousing the ocean with controversial chemical dispersants. But what lies beneath has residents and fisherman more concerned. Are the oyster and shrimp beds now safe to harvest? Are the beaches now safe for swimming and recreation? What about the long-term effects on the ecosystem, especially the important toxin-filtering marshlands? What happens when the cleanup operation and the cameras leave? Will the Gulf communities be left on their own, to deal with the economic and environmental consequences of the massive oil spill? These are the questions being asked now. And there are no ready answers at the moment.

Although the oil is largely gone from the surface, retired Coast Guard admiral Thad Allen promises a cautious approach when making decisions to scale back cleanup operations.

“While we would all like to see the area come back as quickly as it can,” he said, “I think we all need to understand that we, at least in the history of this country, we’ve never put this much oil into the water. And we need to take this very seriously,” said Allen.

According to The New York Times’ report, the long-term effects of underwater oil contamination on the seabed and in the water channel is still an open question that won’t be answered for years:

“The dissolution of the slick should reduce the risk of oil killing more animals or hitting shorelines. But it does not end the many problems and scientific uncertainties associated with the spill, and federal leaders emphasized this week that they had no intention of walking away from those problems any time soon.

The effect on sea life of the large amounts of oil that dissolved below the surface is still a mystery. Two preliminary government reports on that issue have found concentrations of toxic compounds in the deep sea to be low, but the reports left many questions, especially regarding an apparent decline in oxygen levels in the water.”

The Gulf fishermen remain concerned. Once the waters are reopened to fishing, they worry that consumers will be afraid to eat it, even if found safe by the FDA.

The surface oil may have dissipated due to coastal storms, natural bacteria and skimming, but the now, nearly gleaming Gulf of Mexico could be harboring an environmental calamity that would affect all of us for years.


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