New assessment of oil spill response urged

April 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM
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ATHENS, Ga., April 20 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers studying the Deepwater Horizon gulf oil spill are urging the government to reassess how it would respond to similar accidents.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unlike any other oil spill, a 22-member scientific panel reported in the journal Bioscience.

Although the well blowout occurred at unprecedented depths and released enormous quantities of oil, the response to cleanup and contain the oil followed a framework that assumed the oil's behavior would mimic shallow-water and surface spills, the said.

"So many aspects of this oil spill were unique -- that 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," panel member Samantha Joye, a marine scientist at the University of Georgia, said.

"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 lack of a model for understanding deep-water spills may have hindered initial response to the disaster and obscured understanding of what actually happened in the vital early days, the scientists said.

"Our hope is that this paper brings attention to the fact that deep-water oil spill response efforts must be extensively revised so that we do not repeat the same mistakes and are better prepared to assess important ecological impacts from day one," Joye said.

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