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Marine scientists urge government to reassess oil spill response
Date:4/20/2012

deep-water spills may have hindered initial work on this disaster and obscured understanding of what actually happened in the key early days. "The problem here is that scientific assessment would be faster and more thorough if this were a familiar type of spill," said the study's lead author, Charles "Pete" Peterson, a professor at University of North CarolinaChapel Hill, who has been deeply involved in the study of Exxon Valdez environmental effects for more than two decades. "But this was a new type of spill. We now have a sense that the bulk of the impact was probably in the mid-water and deep ocean. Who the heck knows what oil does to the mid-water pelagic and deep-dwelling critters?"

To create their new model, a group of scientists convened under the auspices of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in 2010, while the spill was still active, to synthesize existing knowledge to anticipate the potential ecotoxicological effects of the spill. They highlighted major gaps in scientific understanding that must be addressed for society to successfully confront the modern oil spill in an age in which drilling has moved into deeper water.

"All our previous oil spill models were focused on the skin and the edge of the ocean. That was where everyone thought the action was, like it was for the Exxon Valdez," said co-author Sean Anderson, an associate professor at California State University Channel Islands, "As the Deepwater Horizon spill unfolded, you would hear folks saying things like 'we all know what happens when oil and water mix; the oil floats.' That wasn't the whole story. And that oversimplification initially sent us down an incorrect path full of assumptions and actions that were not the best possible use of our time and effort."

This new model for how an oil spill unfolds and where the resulting ecological impacts accrue emphasizes that the vast majority of the oil is retained at depth and, among other response act
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Contact: Pat Dunleavy
dunleavy@uga.edu
706-542-5863
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

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