Reality springs a leak in BP spill coverage

The script for the BP oil spill is falling apart.

There will be no environmental calamity. The Gulf of Mexico is healing itself faster than anyone imagined.

And for the many critics of BP's and the government's handling of the disaster, there is even worse news. Their strategy of using dispersants to minimize damage appears to have worked.

That is bad news for those pushing the story line of environmental devastation — a group that includes anti-drilling environmentalists, grant-hunting scientists and story-selling journalists.

The beaches were not covered with oil. Some marshes were hit, but now the green shoots of recovery have started sprouting in some of them. The oil quickly disappeared from the surface after the well was plugged. Fishing areas were reopened.

The last hope for environmental Armageddon was under the sea.

The New York Times had reported a rather alarming story about massive underwater oil plumes on May 15. A University of Georgia scientist described them as "shocking'' and "alarming.''

Not to be outdone, scientists from the University of South Florida and Louisiana State University quickly reported discovering their own plumes. Lost to the casual observer was that the amount of oil in these plumes amounted to three or four tablespoons in a swimming pool.

Plume doom peaked last week with a study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

As The Associated Press reported:

The oil is there, at least 22 miles of it. You just can't see it….And it's likely to linger for months on end, scientists said Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume of oil from the disaster.

Actually, that's not true. The Woods Hole findings were from studies done in June, when oil still was pouring out of the well.

Three weeks after the well was plugged, the plume vanished.

"We can't find any oil in the deep water plume,'' said Terry Hazen, a scientist with the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in California. He told me that days before the Woods Hole report made news.

In other words, the media was reporting the past as the present.

Scientists from NOAA knew it because they have an entire navy out plume hunting. But NOAA tends to keep quiet because it is paranoid about charges that it's in cahoots with BP to cover up the spill.

Hazen also shredded a key finding by Woods Hole.

Woods Hole reported that the plume would persist because bacteria were slow in breaking it down at depths of more than 3,000 feet deep.

But the scientists based this finding on a flawed indicator — the oxygen level in the water was about normal.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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