Researcher Finds Oil Coating Gulf Floor At BP's Well

New Orleans, La. – Marine scientist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia says samples her team recovered from the Gulf floor are unique because they were taken before and after the well blowout. She traveled down to the seafloor around the Macondo well in December in a submersible vessel called the Alvin. She searched for creatures she'd seen before the spill, including the worm-like sea cucumber.

"The go around, plowing through the mud and they eat - they basically consume sediment and recycle organic matter that's in that sediment. Those organisms at natural oil and gas seeps - they're very, very abundant. And I didn't see one at the sites we visited with the Alvin in December. Not one - and I was looking for em."

Joye presented her findings to a national science conference over the weekend in Washington, D.C. The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said oil does remain in the Gulf, and it's not evident yet what damage it's causing. Joye says the force of the blowout chemically altered the oil. She says researchers are working on testing methods to accurately trace oil to BP's well. She disagrees with the assessment of Gulf Coast Claims Facility Administrator Kenneth Feinberg that the Gulf should be recovered by 2012.

"For the deepwater habitat, things just happen slower down there because it's cold. And the organisms, the macro-fauna, grow a little slower than their cousins that live at hydrothermal vents. And I think the system is going to recover from this. It's just not going to be in a year or two. It's going to take longer than that."

A NOAA spokesman says Joye's research will be included in the government's damage assessment and ultimate plan for Gulf restoration.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming.