Oil rig drilling for oil out at sea.
(Mirror Daily, United States)- BP oil spill dispersants didn’t help fully degrade the oil according to a new study published by a team of scientists at the University of Georgia. In fact, results of the study show that the chemical sprayed over the oil spill back in 2010 may have actually done more harm than good, as it may have suppressed oil-eating bacteria and, in consequence, slowed down the process of degrading the oil that the bacteria was meant to perform.
The chemical dispersant in question, called Corexit 9500, was sprayed over the oil spill by airplane in order to help remove the slick and assist natural microbes in the water eat up the oil and remove it. But according to Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia, the oil and the microbes that were meant to remove it, as well as the effects of the chemical sprayed, were not monitored by government officials or scientists.
The study shows that, while the oil slick seemed to dissipate, and was removed by the spray from the surface of the water, the chemical didn’t help bacteria degrade it faster. Not only that, the Corexit 9500 also seemed to hurt a certain type of bacteria that was meant to help with the dissipation process.
Samantha Joye and her colleagues recreated the natural Gulf conditions in the laboratory and applied the dispersant to a mixture of water from the Gulf and BP oil in order to monitor the reaction of the microbes found in the water and their effectiveness at eating away the oil while aided by the Corexit 9500 agent.
But while the team found that the dispersant got the oil off the surface of the water, it did not help accelerate the process of biodegradation. In fact, the researchers noted that in the case where no dispersant was added to the water and oil mixture, the oil degraded a lot faster than in the case where the Corexit 9500 was added.
In fact Joye’s team found that in the case of one type of bacteria, there were ill effects when the dispersant was added. One of the main groups of bacteria that eats away oil naturally in the Gulf water is called marinobacters. This type of bacteria make up 3 percent of the total bacteria in normal water but, when exposed to an oil spill, they multiply significantly and end up comprising as much as 42 percent of the bacteria found in the water.
This is great news, as they eat away the surplus of oil. But the Corexit 9500 was actually found to stunt their growth to the original 3 percent. Taking into account the results of the study, Joye has stated that up to 50 percent of the oil is not accounted for and may, in her opinion, still be on the ocean floor.
Image source: www.pixabay.com