OGJ Senior Staff Writer
HOUSTON, Aug. 26 -- The Unified Area Command, which oversees the response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has expanded its techniques to determine any presence of oil in the waters off Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.
“We continue to expand the scope and resources dedicated to detect, monitor, and sample for subsurface oil and dispersants,” said Federal Onscene Coordinator and US Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft. “We are aggressively monitoring the fate of the oil in the gulf.”
Earlier this month, National Incident Commander and retired US Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen acknowledged questions were raised after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 74% of the oil spilled from BP PCL’s Macondo well had evaporated or been burned, skimmed, dispersed, and recovered. NOAA’s report also called for more research (OGJ, Aug. 9, 2010, p. 28).
Zukunft on Aug. 26 outlined how water monitoring efforts have been expanded to include the placement of snare sentinels, which are strings of absorbent materials, at various depths in shallow water to gauge any presence of oil. If oil is detected, water samples are taken for laboratory testing.
Sampling with equipment that scoops sediments is going on in areas where the oil is in contact with the shore. Specially equipped, large shrimp boats are trawling for floating tar balls or oiled debris. Vessels outfitted with sampling platforms are taking water samples offshore to check for subsurface oil.
“If the presence of oil is detected in the water column, then qualified sampling personnel obtain samples which are sent for laboratory tests,” Zukunft said. “If anomalies are noted or oil is suspected, the sample is sent for testing.”
Representatives of various federal, state, and local government agencies are involved in the monitoring efforts along with representatives from the private sector and universities, said a NOAA spokesman.
Collaborative surveys and assessments are planned for the next several weeks.
As of Aug. 25, federal officials reported some 132 miles of shoreline along the Gulf Coast was experiencing moderate to heavy oil. Of that total, 115 miles was in Louisiana, 11 miles in Mississippi, 3 miles in Alabama, and 3 miles in Florida.
About 524 miles of shoreline experienced light to trace oil with 235 miles in Louisiana, 98 miles in Mississippi, 66 miles in Alabama, and 125 miles in Florida. The numbers are provided daily and do not reflect cumulative impacts or shoreline that already was cleaned, federal officials said.
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Officials expand water monitoring for spilled oil