As reported by Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times we may not be out of the woods when it comes to surface damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. While everything seems to have gone back to normal on our beaches, geologist James Kirby has found evidence that the oil is still present and a threat to swimmers and beachgoers.
Mr. Kirby, whose research is being overseen by the University of South Florida, has found that tiny globs of oil mingled with the dispersant that was supposed to break it up, have settled into the shallows, mingling with the shells. The geologist, shining an ultraviolet light on the legs of a grad student who had been in the water and showered, showed orange blotches where the globs still stuck to his skin. Mr. Kirby believes the dispersant accelerates the absorption by the skin.
Corexit, the dispersant used to break up the oil slick, can be toxic to the bacteria that would normally gobble up oil in the Gulf. Kirby said that was why the oil is still showing up two years later. When Corexit bound with the oil, it prevented bacteria from consuming it. The concentrations of toxic hydrocarbons in the flakes and patties are above the level considered to be dangerous under federal standards, he said. That is what concerns him about how quickly the dispersant mixed oil absorbs into human skin.
Biologists are finding damages throughout the Gulf. The oil killed deep sea corals, poisoned plankton that forms the basis of the food chain and caused lesions on popular sport fish, among other reported observations. Scientists expect environmental damage from the spill to continue to reveal itself for some time in the future.