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. Todd

    Did people really believe this BP BS about all those millions of gallons of oil just magically disappearing?


    Just because you don't see it, that doesn't mean it's gone. Of COURSE it's still there!


    August 17, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bway

    I think anyone with a brain knows what is going on here, But it is up to us all to share and spread this story so it doesn’t get out of the news, and out of the minds of people. This is far worse then they are making it sound, to insure there are still tourist on the beach, people out fishing, and oil pumping. Our unemployment is already high and we are in a recession, or as they call it now a contraction. If there is no tourism, commercial fishing, and oil development in the gulf, Unemployment will increase by hundreds of thousands of people, food prices will rise, along with the price of oil. It would not be in the best interest in any company (BP) or any administration (this close to midterm elections) to research anymore into this disaster that is already done. They have both been moving slow, in hopes of getting the story out of the news, and “business back to normal.” We are all going to feel the effects of this on a catastrophic level.

    August 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • carina lobel-west

      It is so good to see a comment that applies. You are on the $$$$ my dear. I'm not touching any sea food at all, and I do know that it will take many many many years for this poison to be not removed but circulated around the globe !!!!! (scary, huh?) We humans continue to saw away at the branch we're sitting on .... species suicide.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. A Texan

    To the many people who question the data coming in from the researchers and the research cruises, two things:

    One: if you know anything about a food web in general, you will know that the web starts with microorganisms. The microorganisms feed the larger organisms; those organisms feed others such as shellfish and vertebrates until the web reaches the larger marine organisms such as fish. If the food web is contaminated at the bottom, what makes anyone think that the food web will not be contaminated at the top?? Yes, there will be many pockets of harvestable areas in the Gulf still, but some marine life IS and WILL BE contaminated.

    Second: many of you REALLY need to take some kind of oil spill research course or do some studying on how oil moves through any water column; especailly once COREXIT has been introduced into a oil-contaminated environment because CLEARLY several people do not have a clue of what he/she is talking about, nor does he/she have any clue of what research is being conducted on these research cruises! Go home, do some research, and then come back and post a logical conversation...

    August 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jim Ward

    Big deal. Duh. There is nothing new under the sun. It was tragic that this happened to the Gulf of Mexico but if you want to no how to clean it up just take a lesson from the Mt. St. Helens volcano eruption...removing the humans (highly unlikely, we are to greedy, all of us, government, corporations and just plain folks) , nature will take care of the rest. Five or ten years from now you won't even know that there was ever an oil leak in the Gulf.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      TO GREEDY 2 NO HOW – nihil novi sub sole (nothing new under the sun) – UUMMM! filet of SOLE samich at McDuggels.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jimbo

    Scientists have an agenda to spread atheism, communism, and hate. Don't let their fear tactics scare you. Rush said that oil is as natural as water and I'll believe him over the hate mongers of the Muslim scientific community.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmarterHuman

      You're kidding right? You're quoting "Rush"? That tipped us off to your credibility, or lack thereof.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bway

      Jimbo the oil is not the only problem it is the toxic dispersant mixed with it.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • craig

      Was an understanding of satire not part of your evolution to becoming a Smarterhuman?

      August 17, 2010 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Gomer Pyle

    CNN drumming up panic again.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Florida...

      Did you seriously name yourself after the guy driven insane by the right-wing drill sergeant? You remember how that ended right?

      August 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Popeye

    It might well be that it would have been better to let this oil come to the surface where it could have been recovered or destroyed rather than let the millions of barrels of oil and dispersant coat and pollute the entire Gulf of Mexico. What BP has done in its attempts to lessen the cleanup costs is to increase the underwater ecological damage.

    Because of the oil and dispersant circulating in the gulf like water in a toilet bowl, I am going to avoid any food item that was raised or caught in the Gulf of Mexico for at least 5 years. I figure it will take five years for most of the existing fish stock, and those that are hatched in the next 2 years to either die off or be depleted.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neotropico

      Thats exactly why they want you and me to eat it, so that we can recycle it out of the Gulf!

      August 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • craig

      The BP clean up effort was federally approved. Don't forget that. Check out how many EPA approved variances they received for using dispersants.

      August 17, 2010 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Werone6

    Is not "Toxic organism" an oxymoron?

    August 17, 2010 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      Of particular note are harmful algal blooms (HABs), which are algal bloom events involving toxic or otherwise harmful phytoplankton such as dinoflagellates of the genus Alexandrium and Karenia. Such blooms often take on a red or brown hue and are known colloquially as red tides.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • SmarterHuman it isn't. Perhaps a dictionary might help your confusion.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Xasthur

    Why are people of afraid to eat gulf shrimp? For years until mad cow they used to feed cattle the ground up left over remains of chickens and pigs but nobody cared about that. Even today they feed them taxpayer subsidized genetically modified corn instead of grass.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Cynthia

    Since dispersant is also lighter than water, it is counterintuitive that it would sink, and neither would the oil. As a scientist myself, I'm skeptical about this claim. Also, given how much oil naturally seeps from fissures in the gulf on a daily basis, I would like to see tests that conclusively prove that this is DWH-related. All this does is continue to destroy the economy of the states impacted by the spill – there is no oil here, no evidence of tainted seafood, yet the fear mongers have managed to ruin the lives of millions of Americans here in the Gulf. Show me the evidence!

    August 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL – The leak is only 1000 Barrels a day – and the ALL YOU CAN EAT, Shrimp won't SQUIRT the toxic microorganisms they eat IN YOUR MOUTH.

      August 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dwighthuth

    The microrginism's on the bottom of the Gulf of Mehico are the beginning of the food chain as well as creating methane gas. If they die then the whole ecosphere that depends upon them will also begin to die.

    Sounds like BP may have intentionally created the spill to kill all of the sea creatures in the area so that no one would really care if Big Oil drills there or not as well as creating spills.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. landmammal72

    USF is no slouch:
    "USF is one of only three Florida public universities classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in the top tier of research activities, a distinction attained by only 2.2 percent of all universities."

    August 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Comets

    ...but the government says that consuming seafood caught in the gulf is safe! Don't worry, everyone! Toxic microbes, no big deal.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

    THE CHECK IS IN THE MAIL – The leak is only 1000 Barrels a day – and the AL YOU CAN EAT, Shrimp won't SQUIRT the toxic microorganisms they eat IN YOUR MOUTH.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. S

    Crude oil is lighter than water, but after the smaller and more volatile compounds in oil disperse the oil is left heavier, and sinks to the bottom.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
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