It’s been a question ever since nearly 800,000 gallons of chemical dispersants were injected below the surface to break up the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: What happened to them?
Now, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution chemist Elizabeth B. Kujawinski and colleagues have released a study showing that a key dispersant component was lingering in a deep-sea oil and gas plume three months after they were used. The discovery is prompting a suite of other questions, such as did the dispersants do their job to break up the oil and what impact have they had on the Gulf’s sensitive marine environment.
“We don’t know if the dispersant broke up the oil,” Kujawinski said in a statement. She led a team that also included scientists from UC Santa Barbara. “We found that it didn’t go away, and that was somewhat surprising.”
The study, which appears online in the Environmental Science & Technology journal is the first peer-reviewed research to be published on the Gulf dispersants, according to the American Chemical Society and Kujawinski.
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