As Hurricane Isaac churns along the Gulf Coast, scientists and state authorities are concerned there is a good chance that it will dredge up oil and tar that settled on the ocean floor after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and unleashed a mammoth oil spill in 2010.
“Winds will push water away from the center of a storm, which causes an upwelling as the ocean tries to adjust,” Nick Shay, professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami, told Huffington Post. “It brings whatever is near the bottom up higher in the water column and currents can then push it towards the coast.” Dr. Shay said he has found tropical storms can create upswells as deep as 1,500 feet.
Researchers say that a fifth of the oil released from BP’s blown-out Macondo well – about 1 million barrels or 42 million gallons — remains in the Gulf of Mexico.
Mitchell Roffer, president of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service and an adjunct professor at the Florida Institute of Technology, told Huffington Post that he and other scientists protested BP’s use of chemical oil dispersants to fight the growing spill.
“All it was doing was putting oil at the bottom of the ocean — out of sight, out of mind,” Dr. Roffer told Huffington Post. “I strongly believe that there is going to be some oil coming back up from submerged depths, into the water column and onto beaches.”
That scenario worries Louisiana officials. Garret Graves, chairman of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority told Huffington Post that all the submerged oil presents “another disaster on top of the hurricane” the state is currently dealing with.
The reappearance of BP’s oil slick could complicate and hinder cleanup efforts, as it would turn ordinary wreckage into hazardous waste that must be specially handled and disposed. The oil could also harm the environment and wildlife and ignite a multitude of health problems for people. Some people on the Gulf Coast, particularly children, continue to suffer from chronic coughs, headaches, and other sickness brought about by contaminated air, water, and seafood.
“The frustrating thing is that this could all have been entirely prevented,” Mr. Graves told Huffington Post. “We’ve known all this time that oil is there, but BP has not been proactive in trying to remove it.”