Twenty-Mile Oil Plume, Deep Underwater, May Have Missed the News That BP Disaster Was Over

Remember how all the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had obligingly more or less vanished ? The New York Times reports that a paper being published in Science tomorrow identifies a little bit of the spill that might have been overlooked :

Dr. [Richard] Camilli’s team measured the main plume at roughly 3,600 feet below the surface; it extended for more than 20 miles southwest of the well. It was more than a mile wide in places and 600 feet thick, traveling at about four miles a day. 

That measurement was made in June, so the plume could have gotten smaller since then. But probably not very quickly, in the 40-degree waters deep in the Gulf: 

The slow breakdown of deep oil that Dr. Camilli’s group found had a silver lining: it meant that the bacteria trying to eat the oil did not appear to have consumed an excessive amount of oxygen in the vicinity of the spill, alleviating concerns that the oxygen might have declined so much that it threatened sea life. 

So instead of being suffocated all at once, the sea life in the Gulf will instead be slowly poisoned over the years and decades to come. 

“I expect the hydrocarbon imprint of the BP discharge will be detectable in the marine environment for the rest of my life,” Ian MacDonald, 58, an oceanographer at Florida State University , told Congress in prepared testimony on Thursday. “The oil is not gone and is not going away anytime soon.”