WASHINGTON — The government is expected to announce on Wednesday that three-quarters of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon leak has already evaporated, dispersed, been captured or otherwise eliminated — and that much of the rest is so diluted that it does not seem to pose much additional risk of harm.
A government report finds that about 26 percent of the oil released from BP’s runaway well is still in the water or onshore in a form that could, in principle, cause new problems. But most is light sheen at the ocean surface or in a dispersed form below the surface, and federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places.
It seems there’s a chance, in principle, that we might not see any new, additional harm. Oh, and then there’s this other stuff. You know, about the old, already-happened harm, the questions left unanswered, which is pretty much all of them.
She emphasized, however, that the government remained concerned about the ecological damage that has already occurred and the potential for more, and said it would continue monitoring the gulf.
“I think we don’t know yet the full impact of this spill on the ecosystem or the people of the gulf,” Dr. Lubchenco said.
Among the biggest unanswered questions, she said, is how much damage the oil has done to the eggs and larvae of organisms like fish, crabs and shrimp. That may not become clear for a year or longer, as new generations of those creatures come to maturity.
Thousands of birds and other animals are known to have been damaged or killed by the spill, a relatively modest toll given the scale of some other oil disasters that killed millions of animals. Efforts are still under way in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida to clean up more than 600 miles of oiled shoreline. The government and BP collected 35,818 tons of oily debris from shorelines through Sunday.
It remains to be seen whether subtle, long-lasting environmental damage from the spill will be found, as has been the case after other large oil spills.
So, let’s recap, shall we?
- we’re pretty sure we know something about some of the stuff that happened
- we’re pretty sure there isn’t any new stuff, about which we know nothing, about to happen
- we know for damn sure that we have absolutely no idea about most everything else that’s happened, which is a lot of stuff