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Microbes ate Macondo oil in Gulf of Mexico

April 9, 2013 at 9:08 AM

WASHINGTON, April 9 (UPI) -- Micro-organisms in the Gulf of Mexico cleaned oil from the 2010 oil spill better than expected though long-term effects are uncertain, U.S. researchers found.

A federal judge in New Orleans is reviewing a case involving the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. British energy company BP leased the Deepwater Horizon rig from Transocean. A blowout at the Macondo well sparked a blaze that sunk the rig, killed 11 workers and led to one of the worst oil spills in the history of the industry.

Terry Hazen, a biologist specializing in bioremediation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, told the BBC that specialized micro-organisms called methanotrophs were able to consume some of the oil spilled from the incident.

"That's why I think the Gulf of Mexico is cleaner than you would expect, not only from the oil but from everything else that goes into it," he said.

The National Wildlife Foundation said last week that said dolphin deaths in the region affected by the oil spill were elevated every month since the April 2010 accident. Sea turtles and coral colonies didn't fare any better in parts of the Gulf of Mexico affected by the spill, NWF found

Hazen agreed, saying the duration of oil contamination made it difficult to assess the long-term impacts on the gulf ecosystem.

"I am quite worried about how resilient the Gulf of Mexico is," he said.

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