We’re as relieved as anybody to see that the massive months-long oil slick from the BP / Deepwater Horizon blowout is finally breaking up, but it’s way too early to declare victory:
- The deadly and still-dangerous Macondo well is not yet permanently plugged.
- Oil is still lingering out of sight, beneath the water’s surface, a few inches deep in some places and thousands of feet down in others. Nobody know how much oil remains in the water column, how long that oil will linger, where it will end up, and what the impacts will be on the Gulf ecosystem.
- Our preliminary analysis shows oil cumulatively covered 68,000 square miles of Gulf waters. Oil reportedly came ashore on hundreds of miles of beaches and wetlands. Oil is deeply embedded in marshes, and buried under the sand on beaches. This oil could linger and have toxic impacts for years, possibly decades.
As NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenko says in today’s New York Times,
Less oil on the surface does not mean that there isn’t oil beneath the surface, however, or that our beaches and marshes are not still at risk. We are extremely concerned about the short-term and long-term impacts to the gulf ecosystem.
At SkyTruth, we’ll keep looking at the Gulf. If funding allows, we’ll use satellite imagery and other remote-sensing techniques to track the future health of marsh grasses and coastal ecosystems where oil made landfall.