Fresh fears over Gulf oil spill calculations

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The Independent US

Two new scientific reports raised fresh fears about the environmental fallout from the world's worst offshore oil spill and questioned government assurances that most of the oil from the ruptured well in the Gulf of Mexico was already gone.

In one of the reports, researchers at the University of Georgia said about three-quarters of the oil from BP's blown-out Macondo well was still lurking below the surface of the Gulf and may pose a threat to the ecosystem.

Charles Hopkinson, who helped lead the investigation, said up to 79 per cent of the 4.1 million barrels of oil that gushed from the broken well and were not captured directly at the wellhead remained in the Gulf. The report was based on an analysis of government estimates released on 2 August that Mr Hopkinson said had been widely misinterpreted as meaning that 75 per cent of the oil spewed by the well had either evaporated, dissolved or been otherwise contained, leaving only about 25 per cent.

"The idea that 75 per cent of the oil is gone and is of no further concern to the environment is just absolutely incorrect," Mr Hopkinson told reporters on a conference call.

A separate study by University of South Florida said experiments in the northeastern Gulf, where so-called plumes or barely visible clouds of oil had been found earlier, had turned up oil in sediments of an underwater canyon. The oil was at levels toxic to critical marine organisms.

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