Lingering Impact of Gulf Oil Spill is Marginal, Says Coast Guard

By Penny Starr | April 25, 2011 | 6:20 PM EDT

Drilling operations at the site of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, on Aug. 3, 2010. (AP File Photo/Gerald Herbert)

( – A report by the U.S. Coast Guard, responsible for the on-site cleanup coordination of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, shows that less than 12 months after the spill, the deep water and offshore areas are recovering and the remaining effects of the spill apparently are marginal.

The report, published in December, has received little attention by the network news and traditional media.  The document, Summary Report for Sub-Sea and Sub-Surface Oil and Dispersant Detection: Sampling and Monitoring, was prepared by Rear Adm. Paul  F. Zukunft, Unified Area Command, New Orleans.

The oil explosion and subsequent spill occurred on Apr. 20, 2010. In his introductory letter to the Dec. 17, 2010, report, Zukunft states: “Based on the robust sampling effort, the expert analysis of the data provided in this report and the decision criteria summarized above, I have determined that there is no actionable oil in the water or sediments of the deep water or offshore zones.”

“Ongoing removal operations will continue where oil remains in nearshore sediments and shorelines,” states Zukunft.

Findings in the report show the following:

• “No deposits of liquid-phase MC252 (the BP deepwater rig) were identified in sediments beyond the shoreline.

• “No exceedances of EPA’s Human Health benchmark were observed.

•  “No exceedances of EPA’s dispersant benchmarks were observed."

Other findings state that since Aug. 3, 2010 – less than four months after the incident – only 1 percent of water and sediment samples “exceeded EPA’s aquatic life benchmarks.”

The report also found that the oil from the BP well “is weathering and biodegrading under natural conditions.”

It also found that of the 87,481 miles of state and federal fisheries, all but 1,041 miles around the wellhead had reopened and that 4,213 miles were closed to royal red shrimping on Nov. 24.

The only sediment samples that exceeded aquatic life benchmarks were located “within 3 kilometers of the wellhead,” according to the report.

The report called for more study of “tar mats” in “shallow nearby waters.”

“Based on the analysis of extensive data collected in the nearshore, offshore, and deep-water zones, the OSAT [Occupational Science Advisory Team] concludes that sampling was adequate to address the presence or absence of sub-surface oil and dispersants (with the exception of the nearshore sampling gap identified in Key Finding 8 above),” the findings portion of the report concludes.

The admiral’s cover letter also states that it was compiled with “enormous assistance” for “public and private” scientists from the Obama administration’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Numerous academic and oceanographic research institutes and chemical laboratories,” also contributed to the report, stated the admiral.

BP’s Unified Area Commender, Mike Ulster, issued a statement about the U.S. Coast Guard  report, saying, “The Deepwater Horizon oil spill and our efforts to clean up the oil have been in the minds of the public, particularly the people of the Gulf Coast, for almost eight months.”

"The scientific evidence in this report is consistent with our observations that the beaches are safe, the water is safe, and the seafood is safe," Ulster said.

Ulster added that the corporation acknowledged there was still work to be done and that he hoped “people will recognize that this region is ready to welcome the country back to its beaches and waters."