Gov’t Confirms Existence of Underwater Oil Plumes


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said that oil from the Deepwater Horizon is collecting in large, undersea plumes, confirming what independent scientists have been reporting for weeks. BP’s CEO has denied their existence, but NOAA head Jane Lubchenco said Tuesday that a team of scientists from the University of South Florida have found plumes as far as 42 miles northeast and 142 miles southeast of the wellhead.

Other scientists studying the Gulf have estimated that one plume is as large as 22 miles long, six miles wide and more than a thousand feet deep, made up of globules of oil of varying sizes. Lubchenco said that NOAA’s tests “indicate there is definitely oil sub surface,” but that it is in “very low concentrations.”

“We have always known there is oil under the surface,” Lubchenco said. Several weeks ago, however,  the head of BP, Tony Hayward, argued that the oil “is on the surface,” adding that the company’s tests found “no evidence” of underwater plumes.

Hayward’s comments not only contradicted scientists, but others from his company and the basic science of chemical dispersants, which BP has been using in unprecedented volumes in the Gulf. The chemicals are designed to break the oil into smaller globs so that it sinks below the surface, and to speed the process of biodegradation. 

Scientists have said the plumes may deplete the oxygen in the water, which would further threaten marine life. There’s also concern about the toxicity of the dispersant BP has been using, and that the dispersed oil may travel farther and affect a larger region of the Gulf.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate