Athens, Ga. On the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout, a national panel of researchers including University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye is urging the federal government to reassess how it would respond to similar oil spills that might occur in the future.
The 22 researchers, whose paper was published April 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Bioscience, noted that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unlike any other oil spill encountered previously. Although the well blowout occurred at unprecedented depths and released enormous quantities of oil (an estimated 4.9 million barrels or 206 million gallons), the response to cleanup and contain the oil followed a framework that assumed the oil's behavior would mimic previous shallow-water and surface spills.
In addition to creating a new model for understanding how deep water oil spills occur, the authors argue for an increase in immediately accessible research funding following oil spills so that society can be better prepared to respond to future spills, should they occur. They also noted that the requirement of the federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment Process that requires cooperative decision-making between the government and the responsible party and mutual approvals of research studies slows down the process and limits the scope of studies that are conducted.
"So many aspects of this oil spill were uniquethat it was an offshore, deep-water blowout; that both methane and oil were released from the wellhead into the pelagic ocean; that dispersants were used at both the sea surface and sea floor," said Joye, the Athletic Association Professor in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Doing science in response to the spill was an incredible challenge, and what we learned during the response led us all to the new spill response model that is described in our paper."
The authors noted that the lack of a model for understanding
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University of Georgia