On Wednesday, I reported new evidence of a growing oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico, originating near the site of last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Bonny Schumaker of nonprofit group On Wings of Care took a flyover of the Gulf, photographing and shooting video of a 10 mile long by 4 mile wide oil slick extending along the surface. She also communicated via radio with two ships, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer and the Sarah Bordelon, allegedly hired by BP to collect samples of the new oil.
Although Tropical Storm Lee has shut down nearly all operations in the Gulf of Mexico for the present, we are still receiving reports from NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and independent research bodies about their findings this week.
First, chemists Ed Overton and Scott Miles of Louisiana State University have confirmed for us that the oil found bubbling to the surface this week is a fingerprint match for BP’s Macondo well, which lies in Mississippi Canyon Block 252 of the Gulf of Mexico.
“After examining the data, I think it’s a dead ringer for the MC252 oil, as good a match as I’ve seen,” said Overton. “My guess is that it is probably coming from the broken riser pipe or sunken (Deepwater Horizon) platform… However, it should be confirmed, just to make sure there is no leak from the plugged well.”
Of course, BP officials are sticking to their story and have responded that “there is still no evidence that the oil came from the Macondo well.”
Next, NOAA has received reports back from the Okeanos Explorer indicating that heavy amounts of dispersant had been found mixed with the oil (leading some to speculate that the Sarah Bordelon may have been doing more for BP than simply collecting oil samples).
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough confirmed that the oil sheen emanating from the area of the Macondo well was “too dispersed to recover” from the surface.
“We received a report from the NOAA vessel Okeanos Explorer,” said Colclough. “They reported to us that (the oil) was dispersed and unrecoverable, whereupon we conducted an overflight to verify it.”
BP official Curtis Thomas responded, stating that the oil “very well could be from natural seeps… What we are saying for sure is that it is not from our well head.”
In the coming days, the Coast Guard, NOAA, and independent groups are expected to continue investigating the growing oil sheen as well as the area around the Macondo well. Stay tuned for more updates.