Wednesday, May 19, 2010

About the majority of that spill...

Obama is still actively doing nothing, except lying about a ship that isn't even there (not to mention prohibiting journalists from filming oil-covered beaches–"BP's rules, no cameras" Does BP own the water and beach now, too?)) Then again, if we continue to not look for those 50 mile plumes of underwater oil (still growing over 3 million gallons by the day), they'll probably just disappear (to another continent)!

...NOAA officials did not respond to repeated questions from the Huffington Post on Tuesday, and therefore did not explain how they could possibly assess or track underwater oil without having any vessels out taking measurements. Nor did they explain how the Gordon Gunter showed up in an administration press release.

Doug Helton, the emergency response coordinator in Seattle who is NOAA's trajectory expert, answered his phone but wouldn't say much. "It's still a pretty dynamic situation as to what's in the field today, as opposed to yesterday," he hedged, before saying he would call back after getting clearance from NOAA's public affairs office. There was no call back.

"The fact that NOAA has missed the ball catastrophically on the tracking and effects monitoring of this spill is inexcusable," said Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska marine conservationist who recently spent more than a week on the Gulf Coast advising Greenpeace. "They need 20 research ships on this, yesterday."

Steiner explained: "This is probably turning out to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history and the most unique oil spill in world history," on account of it occurring not on or near the surface, but nearly a mile below.

"They should have had a preexisting rapid response plan," he told HuffPost. "They should have had vessels of opportunity -- shrimp vessels, any vessel that can deploy a water-column sampling device -- pre-contracted, on a list, to be called up in an event that this happened. And they blew it. And it's been going on for a month now, and all that information has been lost."

Steiner gave credit to the scientists on the Pelican, but noted that at most they had sampled less than 1 percent of the affected waters. "The Pelican happened to drop some of their sampling devices into a plume and found it, but there have to be plumes elsewhere, and the biological implication are vast."

NOAA officials "haven't picked it up because they haven't looked in the right places," he said. "There have to be dozens of these massive plumes of toxic Deepwater Horizon oil, and they haven't set out to delineate them in any shape or form."

Frank Muller-Karger, an oceanography professor at the University of South Florida who will be testifying before the House Energy Committee on Wednesday, said that testing for oil beneath the surface should be a top priority.

"I think that should be one of our biggest concerns, getting the technology and the research to try to understand how big this amorphous mass of water is, and how it moves," he said.

"It's like an iceberg. Most of it is below the surface. And we just have no instruments below the surface that can help us monitor the size, the concentration and the movement."

Muller-Karger said there are all sorts of implements that researchers should be deploying, including optical sensors and current meters. "I think that now people are really scrambling to get some vessels out there," said Muller-Karger. "I think we're going to need a fleet of research vessels."

In addition to measuring the amount of oil, researchers need to study the effect on fish larvae and bacteria, he said. "Very big fish and very prized fish are moving in to spawn -- it's a critical time of the year," he told HuffPost. "Larvae from the fish may end up eating droplets of oil.

On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla,) released four new videos showing oil billowing out of the Deepwater Horizon blowout site.

Steiner said NOAA is not only failing to fully measure the impact of the spill, but, he said, "if they rationally want to close and open fisheries, then they need to know where this stuff is going."

As it happens, NOAA announced Tuesday that it is doubling its Gulf fishing ban to encompass 19 percent of the federal waters.

But Steiner said it is quite possible, for instance, that some plumes are being carried by a slow deepwater southwest, toward the coast of Texas. More oil than is already visible could be entering the Loop Current, which could carry it past the Florida Keys and up the Atlantic coast.

"And truly, they really need 20 or 30 vessels out there yesterday," Steiner said. "And I think they know that. And so all the spin -- that they have this under control, that there's no oil under the surface to worry about -- they're wrong, and they know it." (read the whole thing)

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