CLEAR Water Tests Positive for Oil, Officials “Only Doing Visual Assessments”, “What You Can’t See May Be More Dangerous”

The Pensacola News Journal notes:

Dick Snyder, director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of West Florida, began conducting water samples May 3 on Pensacola Beach every Tuesday and Thursday because beach and health officials were only doing visual assessments.

What you can’t see in the water may be more dangerous than what you can see, he said.

“That’s why we thought we had to start looking for dissolved oil,” he said.

It can’t been seen and it poses health risks. So far it’s not been found in the surf zone on the beach. But water samples taken Thursday in the surf zone, where most people swim, at Casino Beach, did reveal small amounts of alkanes, hydrocarbon molecules found in oil, he said.

Snyder has solid scientific credentials.

Dr. Ernest Pebbles – professor of Biological Oceanography at the University of South Floridasays the same thing.

And as Paul Montagna – Endowed Chair for Ecosystems Studies and Modeling at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi – notes, new oil will keep on dissolving in the water for decades:

The large, long-term danger may be from the oil that is stranded on the bottom. The deep sea is about the same temperature as your refrigerator, so bacteria will not be able to break down the oil, and we can expect tar balls to emanate from this area for decades to come.

This also means that the disaster will continue for a decade or two as the oil within the environment continues to break down, dissolve and move back into the surface waters. Even though smaller amounts will be released in the future, it will still have population-level effects because the juvenile stages of all marine animals are much more sensitive to toxins than adults. The lost juveniles will have a ripple effect throughout marine populations because there will be fewer adults in future generations to reproduce and replenish the lost animals.

Hat tip to Florida Oil Spill Law, which is one of the best resources for news on the oil spill.

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