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NOAA downplays subsea oil plume claims

NEW ORLEANS, May 18 (UPI) -- Reports about a large subsea oil plume coming from the sunken Deepwater Horizon oil rig are misleading and inaccurate, U.S. scientists said.

U.S. researchers examining the oil leak from the April sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico said there was a giant underwater oil plume depleting oxygen levels and threatening marine wildlife.

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Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that media reports regarding that investigation were "misleading, premature and, in some cases, inaccurate."

Lubchenco said there are "no definitive conclusions" regarding the composition of the plume, adding that the notion that it was an oil plume has yet to be verified. Oxygen levels, she said, are below normal, but not low enough to warrant concern.

While NOAA in its forecast maps for the southern coast of Louisiana predicts potential beached oil in some areas, most of the plume is characterized as "light" and remains offshore.

BP during the weekend began siphoning oil from the broken subsea well in an effort to control spill. Conservative estimates put the rate of oil leaking from the sunken rig at 5,000 barrels per day. BP said it is collecting 2,000 barrels of oil per day using the siphon.

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Another option, BP said, is to develop a "top kill" operation to seal the well using heavy drilling fluids followed by a cement plug.

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