September 16, 2010
Oil may be harming base of food web, early results suggest.
Weeks after the U.S. government claimed that the "vast majority" of oil from the Gulf of Mexico spill has been taken care of, oil has possibly been found deep on the Gulf seafloor, scientists announced this week.
For Texas Tech University ecotoxicologist Ron Kendall, the bacteria and plankton's responses confirm his initial fears.
"This is what we've been worried about, because this is the base of the food chain," he said. "Any effects on that level can work their way right on up." (See pictures of ten animals at risk from the Gulf oil spill.)
Kendall added that the potential discovery of oil on the seafloor "goes directly to the issue of the unprecedented use of dispersants."
Instead of rising to the surface, the bits of dispersant-treated oil may be suspended in deep water or may have settled on the seafloor, Kendall said.
In the highly sensitive deep Gulf, such dispersants can easily throw the environment off-balance, he said.
"This is what some of these results are starting to show—and that's not good news."