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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

Natural Disaster

Jonathan Serrie

Atlanta, GA

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100 Days After Spill Gulf Still at Risk

July 28, 2010 - 8:55 AM | by: Jonathan Serrie

As the BP Deepwater Horizon cleanup moves into its 100th day, oil on the surface appears to be diminishing as engineers move ever closer to permanently killing the damaged well at the bottom of the Gulf. But coastal residents still worry about the long term effects the spill will have on their health and the economy.

Environmentalists have raised concerns over the toxicity of chemical dispersants, which BP used in record amounts (nearly 2 million gallons) to help break up the spill. Despite the risks, federal officials said the chemicals appear to have been effective in thinning out large patches of the spill — making it more susceptible to micro-organisms that feed on oil.

“We know that a significant amount of the oil has been disbursed and been biodegraded by naturally occurring bacteria,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, “Bacteria that breaks down oil are naturally abundant in the Gulf of Mexico in large part because of the warm water there and the conditions afforded by nutrients and oxygen availability.”

Lubchenco said scientists were also monitoring for oil below the surface, which has been a major concern among fishermen and others who make their livelihoods on the Gulf.

“We’re currently doing a very careful analysis to better understand where the oil has gone and where the remaining impacts are most likely to occur,” she said.

While the oil spill has frightened away many tourists and forced the suspension of commercial fishing near the spill, the cleanup effort has created economies of its own. Local shrimpers and other fishing vessels have been hired to deploy boom and recover oil.

But many of these fishermen worry what will happen as the surface oil goes away and the cleanup response scales back. Even after fishing restrictions are lifted from coastal waters, the local seafood industry will likely have to reassure nervous consumers — as it currently has to do for fish caught in vast areas of the Gulf that were unaffected by the spill.

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