August 17th, 2010
11:59 AM ET

Scientists: Toxic organisms, oil found on Gulf floor

John Paul says, at first, he couldn't believe his own scientific data showing toxic microscopic marine organisms in the Gulf of Mexico. He repeated the field test. A colleague did his own test. All the results came back the same: toxic.

It was the first time Paul and other University of South Florida scientists had made such a finding since they started investigating the environmental damage from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The preliminary results, the scientists believe, show that oil that has settled on the floor is contaminating small sea organisms.

Paul is a marine microbiologist with the University of South Florida. He and 13 other researchers were in the middle of a 10-day research mission that began August 6 in the Gulf of Mexico when they made the toxic discovery.

The researchers battled 12-foot waves and storms but returned to St. Petersburg, Florida Monday night.

We were there as the team pulled its research materials into the lab and got the first report back of their initial findings.

The researchers found micro-droplets of oil scattered across the ocean floor and they also found those droplets moving up through a part of the Gulf called the DeSoto Canyon, a channel which funnels water and nutrients into the popular commercial and recreational waters along the Florida Gulf Coast.
The scientists say even though it's getting harder to see the oil the Gulf is still not safe.

"This whole concept of submerged oil and the application of dispersants in the subsurface and what are the impacts that it could have, have changed the paradigm of what an oil spill is from a 2-dimensional surface disaster to a 3-dimensional catastrophe," said David Hollander, a chemical oceanographer and one of the lead scientists on the recent USF mission.

Reports focus on lingering effects of Gulf Oil spill

soundoff (315 Responses)
  1. George

    "The preliminary results, the scientists believe, show that oil that has settled on the floor is contaminating small sea organisms."

    Shocking. Who could possibly have predicted that? It boggles the mind. Why, most people I talk to are quite certain that the use of dispersants caused magic oil fairies to wave their little wands and make those mean ugly toxic massive underwater oil plumes drift off to the Land of Neverwas. Those same people blame Obama when you explain to them that fairies don't exist, but soon they will forget, and start blathering about magical microbes and fairies again.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. mitch

    All natural. Oil is all natural. So is leprosy. Viruses are natural too.
    Snake venom, poison ivy, toxic mushrooms, etc...
    Lots of natural things can poison or kill you.

    August 18, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ben


    real scientist, geez, I found microscopic particle of oil all over the place 40 miles near the largest oil spill ever, someone needs to grow up, if they don't like then go move into a cave.

    Also, yes, it will impact, but geez, what about all that oil spread from sinking ship during world war two, do you still find evidence, I think not, hmm, what about all that oil from oil well from the late 1800s early 1900s, can you still find evidence of the oil spills from them, and some of those took a couple of months to cap after being discovered, talking about lakes on land, think not,

    you know what they said about the boy that cried wolf and the saying about being careful of what you wish for.


    August 18, 2010 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Lloyd Cata

      If you want the epidemiology why don't you just take your fishing pole to Prince William; site of the Exxon Valdez spill. I'm betting you have the same excuses; different environnment, different kind of oil, different sea life....same results.

      Ohhh....the microbes couldn't digest oil laced with Corexit? Who knew they didn't like 'poisoned' oil?

      Does BP still pay people to be 'oil spill detractors'? Why not whe their paying Booby Jindal who built the berms blocking the Mississippi floods when the Army Corps told him it was stupid. Real good...stop the oil so everyone can live in the water. LOL - must be Obama's fault you people are the lowest in education.

      May 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. phil

    I wonder how the fish that comsume the oil are able to render it harmless. I guess they fill their tanks up and have races like the daytona 500. I wonder if the pit crews change fins and fill the tanks with more oil. It is really not funny but the woman from NOAA saying the oil will be consumed bythe fish and rendered harmless must think the american public are idiots. I say she is full of sheit and she needs to eat gulf fish for the rest of her life.

    August 18, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  5. cindyloohoo

    What are you people talking about?! Obama and his family swam in it! It HAS to be safe. Koolaide, anyone? :/

    August 18, 2010 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. jill

    it took them this long to find out the oil in the gulf was toxic....?? really people, obviously sh** is going to hit the fan when thousands and thousands of gallons of oil spew out for weeks upon weeks.

    August 18, 2010 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. csmith

    Instead of all this back and forth, just start boycotting BP and ARCO stations nationwide forever. And stop eating Gulf seafood for at least the next 50 years.

    August 18, 2010 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. Chris from Maryland

    A few scientific principles that you people might find interesting.

    Hydrocarbons – In organic chemistry, a hydrocarbon is an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon
    The majority of hydrocarbons found naturally occur in crude oil, where decomposed organic matter provides an abundance of carbon and hydrogen.

    Now that we have established that crude oil is completely organic matter, we can then turn our attention to the role of bacteria in nature. It has long been established that bacteria is the most plentiful organism in the world. It is responsible for many of the chemical reactions that occur in nature, ESPECIALLY the decomposition of organic matter. Now, we all know that most bacteria thrives in an aquatic environment. The gulf basin has an estimated water volume of 660 QUADRILLION gallons of water, all teeming with bacteria. The Total amount of oil spilled during the "crisis" was 205.8 million gallons. For anyone that is wondering, that is ONE gallon of OIL per 3.2 BILLION gallons of WATER. Needle in a haystack come to mind?

    Furthermore, the breakdown of Oil by bacteria into its base components actually is CO2 and H20. Carbon dioxide and Water. The TOXICITY that is occurring in the water may very well be the result of algal bloom due to the increased CO2 levels. As far as this Corexit substance, I believe it was helpful in emulsifying the oil and allowing the bacteria to do their job more effectively. Both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria were able to contribute to the break down of oil, and any resulting toxicity may be as a result of this bacterial bloom, as we all know bacteria releases harmful substances sometimes.
    It sounds like people are assuming that only once the oil stopped that the bacteria were able to get to work, but the second the oil started spilling, the bacteria went to work. The oil has been breaking down for more then 3 months now. With a plentiful food source, the bacteria multiplied. As the food source dwindles with the disappearance of the oil, the bacteria will die and the "toxicity" levels will probably return to normal.

    August 18, 2010 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris from Maryland

      My apologies, I stated in the second to last paragraph that the toxicity could be caused by algal bloom, and then changed it to saying it could be caused by the presence of bacteria. They could both be the case. The increased CO2 causes aquatic plantlife to go crazy and it sometimes causes algal blooms. Some kinds of aquatic plantlife are toxic (look up the crimson tide in reference to marine life). This increased plantlife also increases the amount of oxygen in the water, as we all know that when a plant uses CO2, it releases oxygen into into the environment.

      August 18, 2010 at 3:37 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Why don't sound-minded, educated people like Chris ever get their articles or words made main stream? This whole article is ridiculous. The use of the word 'toxic' in relation to crude oil makes me seriously question the intelligence of the person responsible for these tests.

      If you see any negitive effects at all, look to the chemical dispersants as the culprit. Ask any of the boys on the North Slope where the enviornment was hurt the most. They will tell you its where we went in and tried to steam clean and use chemicals. Where we tried to clean is where the enviornment was hardest impacted. It's all political. We would have been better off combating the Gulf spill with only physical methods of separation and containment.

      Petroleum Engineer

      August 18, 2010 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Lloyd Cata

      // As the food source dwindles with the disappearance of the oil, the bacteria will die and the "toxicity" levels will probably return to normal. //

      POOF!!! The oil "disappears" because the bacteria ate it up...YUMMY! Now I don't pretend to know how long it takes for these bacteria to "starve to death" from lack of oil,, but there seems to be a problem with all those "dead" bacteria.Its like waiting for the end of a magic act, but you have to understand that you got the magic at the beginning of the act.

      Hope you liked the show. There's a sequel coming, and it will not be about will be about the truth. The kind of truth that doesn't disappear when the media goes home.

      May 27, 2011 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. CNelson

    @Andrew Friet

    CNelson, you are either a master of sarcasm or a complete moron. Thank you for your statement. I know who the owners are. I am a master of sarcasm and always will be 🙂

    August 18, 2010 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. reaper

    Toxic organism

    August 18, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mike

    Cant stand shrimp so, meh. As far as people losing their jobs – hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs to people in India, China, Estonia, Costa Rica and elsewhere due to a cancer called OUTSOURCING and it has destroyed the United States' economy. Oh, but we keep sweeping THAT issue under the rug.

    August 18, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cynthia

    THIS is exactly why we need to focus more on renewable resources. You could knock down a whole field of windmills, and not spill a drop. 😉

    August 20, 2010 at 3:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sabrina Ennes

    Keep functioning ,nice job!

    December 15, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lloyd Cata

    Walmart is happy that you will not be fishing for your supper. Just cashing those BP checks is music to their bottom line. mean that the water around New Orleans was toxic before the spill? Interesting!

    May 27, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
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