More birds and marine wildlife will be threatened if heightened estimates of the amount of oil flowing from a well in the Gulf of Mexico prove to be true, a University of West Georgia scientist says.
As news reports said that the number of gallons of oil flowing into the gulf could be between 40 million and 100 million, the amount of damage already done to the ecosystem is immeasurable, said Dr. David Bush, a coastal geologist at UWG.
“There’s the oil you can see on the surface of the gulf, but there is oil beneath the surface that can’t fully be seen,” Bush said. “That oil is reaching all kinds of critters that live there, and we don’t know how much damage that is doing.”
Recent estimates on the amount of oil spilled have far outstripped previous assessments.
There has been additional concerned raised by environmentalists as the oil spreads to inlets and reaches shores, but Bush says that while that will create more problems, it also could contribute to a far-reaching solution.
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘The solution for pollution is dilution,’ and as that oil becomes less concentrated, it might help lessen the harmful impact that it’s having on areas where it’s heavily concentrated,” Bush said. “Nature will take care of this in the long run, but it’s going to put so many people out of work and kill so many wetlands.”
Bush was strongly critical of recent plans to build sand burms to protect wetlands and beaches in Louisiana from seeping oil.
“It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and won’t do anything but mess things up further,” he said. “You’re moving so much sand to build these things, but you have to remember that when you’re moving sand, there are things that live in that sand and you’re disrupting them. Putting loose sand in those areas doesn’t offer any protection at all.”
Bush said that despite the damage oil would do to coastal wetlands, the effects might not be as severe as what is seen farther offshore.
“A lot of the more inland ecosystems might be better able to tolerate the oil than the areas off the gulf coast,” he said. Those inland areas constantly have waters flowing back and forth from the gulf, which could help dilute the oil, Bush said.
Bush said that there are no perfect approaches to fixing the damage done by the massive spill, but perhaps the best approach would be to implement a hyperaggressive strategy of trying to collect as much oil as possible.
“There should be every public and private boat out there picking up oil with whatever is effective in doing that, even if they have to get out there with sponges,” he said. “Instead of 1,000 boats being out there, there should be 100,000.