TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Up to 10 million gallons of crude oil from the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 remains buried under sediment in the Gulf of Mexico, spelling out long-term dangers for local marine life and raising questions about permanent damage to the waterway, a Florida State University professor said.
For years after the devastating 200-million-gallon spill, BP cleanup crews and government officials said they didn't know what happened to 6 to 10 million gallons. Oceanography Professor Jeff Chanton said the mystery oil is located in the Gulf floor sediment, about 62 miles southeast of the Mississippi Delta.
The oil means there will be less oxygen on the Gulf floor, making it difficult for bacteria to attack and decompose it.
"This is going to affect the Gulf for years to come," Chanton said. "Fish will likely ingest contaminants because worms ingest the sediment, and fish eat the worms. It's a conduit for contamination into the food web."
Chanton and his team mapped the oil sediment distribution using carbon 14, a radioactive isotope. Since oil does not contain carbon 14, the sentiment with the oil stood out immediately.
The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 and injuring 17. The spill is the biggest in U.S. history. While the well was capped in July 2010, oil and tar balls are still washing ashore in surrounding areas.
Chanton's findings were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.