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. Katie

    Listen. The oil is almost gone. The BP guy on the commercial told me so. Everyone is smiling and happy again. more questions. The oil has disappeared. No need for questions as to where it went. Let's just be drones and accept that it's gone.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonah

      Yes. Us Americans are more safe under our blanket of security. I don't want to hear of wars and oil. Just tell me what to eat, say, hear, and who to pay.

      August 17, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. huxley

    anyone who thinks this is safe ,has pie in the sky.It will take years to get all this back together.In the long run with human consumtion at this time what will you develop and DIE WITH ?????

    August 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Byrd

    P.S. If BP thinks the seafood from the Gulf is safe, then perhaps they can broker a deal with the UK to buy all of our Gulf seafood. I'm sure the good people in England wouldn't mind a little oil with their fish and chips.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Texas Pete

    Wow, a minor study from the prestigious University of South Florida that hasn't been independently verified yet. Either it is a slow news day, or CNN is bummed that their predictions of BP declaring bankruptcy and all life to die in the entire Gulf of Mexico, so they are grasping at straws here.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. alleygator

    There it is, right at the beginning of the food chain. We won't be having seafood for a decade or so.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. George Kenney

    Where does natural oil that seeps out of the earth every day go? I would say into the Gulf and on the bottom of the Gulf....they say that as much as 1.5 million barrels a year seeps naturally into the Gulf........over the last 500 years that would be 750 million barrels... where is all that oil?

    August 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ocean Chemist

      If you have a shot of vodka, it doesn't generally kill someone. If you have three bottles at once, it does.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pete - Syracuse

    When you wash your greasy frying pan in a sink full of soapy water, the pan gets clean because the soap puts the grease in suspension in the water. Oil and water mixes!! The grease isn't transformed into a new chemical – it's still grease and it's still there!! If you keep dumping your soapy dishwater into your swimming pool, pretty soon the grease comes out of suspension and imagine what you have. Same thing that the Gulf will be like when the dispersant BP used fails and the oil comes out of suspension. A mess.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      "The hydrophobic effect
      Oil and water do not mix. This fact is so well engrained in our ever-day experience that
      we never ask “why”. Well, today we are going to ask just this question: “why do oil and
      water not mix?” At the end of the class you will hopefully see that the reason oil and
      water do not mix is quite distinct from the reason many other substance do not mix. You
      will also see that the hydrophobic effect is part of a family of processes called “entropy
      driven ordering” and that the hydrophobic effect has nothing to do with bonds between
      hydrophobic molecules. This should sound a bit strange to you right now, but I am sure
      that at the end of the class it will all make sense to you."

      Just read about it folks...

      August 17, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3-6-9

      Right. Thanks for putting it in layman's terms.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Robin

    This is oil that came out of the ground as unrefined crude oil, has settled back to the seafloor where it will again be covered by sands and settlements in the years to come yet the main topic on this news is that it is Toxic? Crude oil is a naturally occuring substance created by millions of years of carbon based life forms dying and being covered with sediment and sometimes even naturally leaking from the ocean floor on its own on occasion.

    ALL Crude Oil is toxic if ingested. Most fish and mammals are likely to know this already and avoid it.

    It is not that it didn't go away - we have co-existed with these substances for as long as man has been alive and I would venture to say it is a pretty safe bet that animals and most marine life know it should not be ingested and will avoid it as much as your dog avoids eating frogs because he has learned that eating frogs will make him sick.

    What happened to common sense?

    August 17, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreddieBoy

      What happened to common sense?
      You tell us!
      Do you really expect "small sea organisms" to have the intelligence of a dog?
      What happened to common sense?

      August 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • c6022

      Wow – the ignorance of this post is amazing, just amazing. Yes oil is a naturally occurring substance. However, it is not naturally mixing in the oceans with toxic dispersant sprayed non-stop for days on end. Oil is created by the decay of organic material, under very high pressures under the earth's crust and it takes millions of years for it to be created. /and, you other comment about the oil being "safer" if it's on the bottom of the gulf rather than the top? Do you really not know that there is life on the bottom of the Gulf? That shrimp and bottom dwelling fish as well as crabs, stingrays, etc., etc., live on the Gulf bottom? Oil being on the bottom of the Gulf is only better for BP; they can show photo ops of the Gulf looking clean on top and point to their "efforts" at cleaning as being successful.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3-6-9

      c6022–You can be assured that BP was counting on Americas ignorance. They thought we would just go on our merry ignorant way. As the saying goes: ignorance is bliss. Thank God, some people actually have a brain.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jamie

      So I just had a visual of what you must look like if you really beleive the silly stuff you wrote... Know when you turn on the local evening news after some storm blew threw town and there is always this one idiot that the local news interviews who is wearing his hat backwards, has a beer belly and is wearing a shirt that says "who farted?" .... yep, I'm pretty sure you are to this article what that villiage idiot is to the local 5 o'clock news.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Robin

    This is another attempt by the media to blow something out of proportion to the actual facts. Oil is laying on the bottom of the ocean. That is preferrable to it being at the top, I think! Do we really need to have one more thing to let peoples imaginations run amok and worry about?

    August 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreddieBoy

      We certainly shouldn't worry about our food source!
      What happened to common sense?

      August 17, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kahuna

    You have to understand the Republican mindset for "Bad". Bad is what kills you instantly or within seconds. Anything else is good and needs no regulation, government intervention, etc. If the polution is at the bottom of the Gulf, then they can't see it therefore it's ok. If a shrimp can be caught and eaten anywhere in the Gulf without the consumer dying, then all shrimp in the Gulf is ok.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michelle

    Oh Lord! Living in N.O., I am desperately wanting to believe the oil has been eaten with microbial, thermal and solar degradation. Who is the definite authority on the subject? Can the government be trusted? Is there a congressional hearing with a gathering of the U.S.'s best minds to research and determine the anticipated outcome of BP's gulf oil spill? I am encouraged when I read "20 million gallons leak from the Gulf floor every year, and yet we don't see it because there are plenty of bacteria to eat it, etc." Is that true? Internet research says yes. Everyone should be dam*ned sure they are factually correct when spewing out statements about gulf seafood toxity and malformed babies! Our way of life and the ability to feed our families depends on it!!! Preliminary FALSE statement will take food out of the mouths of our children. Please, please discuss only FACTS. Any finally, what about this post from Ryan in TX?

    Corexit is 1-0-0-0 Hazmat. It was used on the much bigger Ixtoc spill that happened in the Gulf in 1979. There were no measurable environmental impacts 2 years after Ixtoc. Just yesterday test results of gas chromatography on seafood from directly in the spill showed no hydrocarbons (to 1 PPB – part per billion).
    August 17, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    August 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • c6022

      You can bet I'm not going to be eating anything from the Gulf. BP has poisoned the Gulf; first with iol and then with the dispersant. I am sickened by BP's glossing over of the real situation. The Gulf might as well be re-named "The Dead Sea II."

      August 17, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3-6-9

      I can tell you that not enough time has gone by to be assured that gulf food is safe. Better to be safe than sorry and wait. Who knows if what ryan said is true, and another thing just because 1 batch of seafood in 1 place was ok, doesn't mean that everywhere it is ok. I personally wouldn't eat seafood from the gulf. You better wait a little while.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan in Texas

      Michelle, Ya'll have had a terrible string of bad luck lately. I feel for you as we used to enjoy going to N.O. every year for Food, Drinks, and Antiques/Shopping. This problem will pass. I expect about 2 years until everything is completely back to normal. By next summer, all fishing and beaches will be fine, but they will be able to find tarballs (hard, black tarballs) along the coast. Once people realize that the seafood we are eating now is coming from an even more polluted Chinese waters, they will get back to Gulf Seafood. It is going to be tough, but N.O. has survived for over 400 years. The $20 billion BP fund should help the economy there some, but not as much as things getting back to normal. Despite what some of the doom and gloom people are saying (the media loves bad news), the data is coming back more positive than expected. The oil is breaking down, and the seafood is testing petroleum free. (Sometimes you just have bad luck, my parents home near Beaumont got hit by Rita and then Ike in just a few years – but it could be 50 years before they get hit again). Good luck to you, and everyone in S.E. L.A. – From a neighbor in Texas.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Dorkus

    The oil is gone, BP even said so. Even if it's not gone, what could be more natural than crude oil? It comes right from Mother Earth, it it and enjoy!

    August 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. don berry

    Do yourself a BIG favor and stop reading or watching any mainstream news. From day one, the government and BP have been in bed together with the mainstream news in lockstep with them.
    You are foolish if you believe 2 million pounds (that is what they admit to – sure there is more) of corexit is just going to disappear without harm to everything it comes into contact with.
    Simple plan – drop as much corexit as possible to make the oil sink and not be visible to the eye. Bail out as fast as possible. When the fish kills come in and people start getting sick, children start dying etc – deny deny deny that the corexit has anything to do with it.
    It will take a year or 2 for everyone to notice that the fish and crabs are all gone because the corexit killed off all of the smaller organisms, then we can have a big debate on why it happened..........
    This is a MUCH larger catastrophe then is being let on and it will be decades at best before the gulf even begins to recover, maybe a century. Yet just wait – for the next few years we will have a hundred different reasons why the fish are gone and people are getting sick with the government lying at every step – basically it will be a political issue with one side saying one thing, the other side saying something else and in the meantime, a generation of kids along the gulf will be dying or coming down with all kinds of diseases.
    But hey, it's the American way – capitalism at it's finest. Only thing that matters is the bottom line, besides, the real market now is in China anyway, the U.S. is now expendable

    August 17, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottie

      Same observation for you Dingle, thnk about this again in your 1-2 years and see if Ias you say "t will take a year or 2 for everyone to notice that the fish and crabs are all gone " Let us know if all the fish and crabs are all gone and apologise to your self for your blind ignorance. The fact is, NOBODY has found a trace of the dispersant compounds anywhere in open water beyond a few feet from where it was applied.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • 3-6-9

      Well said. And that's what it comes down to. If you've ever read about MI6, the English secret service, you'd know that the Brits are capable of doing just about anything to protect their interests.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Earthling

      This is so stupid. Conspiracies of this magnitude are not possible. There is no way to assure the cooperation of the thousands of people that would have to be involved.

      August 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Allison

    YA! Well duh?!?!?! What did people think would happen with the oil when using dispersants- that it would magically dissapear or be inert? I also want them to start testing the shrimp and seafood for the dispersants- not just oil. This is a toxic chemical we are talking about, and now that it is sitting on the ocean floor, it can wreak havoc on a differnt level of our environment that we don't even fully understand yet. Thank you coast guard for approving this, and thank you BP for taking one environmental crisis and converting it to a more difficult and less understood problem.

    August 17, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Spanish Inquisition

    BP must have thought 'out of sight, out of mind' !?

    August 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
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