At UCF, scientists look for lingering damage from BP oil spill

If dolphins could turn out for a roll call, then biologist Graham Worthy would have a much easier task determining the survivors, victims and overall harmful effects of the massive oil spill last spring and summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mattie? Here.

Tabbs? Here.

Xeno? Xeno?

But since a dolphin roll call and other such straightforward assessments aren’t a possibility, Worthy and dozens of other Florida scientists meeting Wednesday and today at the University of Central Florida have been forced to probe bits and pieces of evidence in the wake of the nearly three-month spill from an offshore well drilled by oil company BP PLC.

Their general and early consensus: A significant measure of luck was on the Gulf’s side last year, in that the crude oil could have been much more poisonous and the currents could have carried a lot more of it to Florida’s shores.

The spill began April 20 under mile-deep waters nearly 50 miles south of Louisiana and spread slowly before reaching Panhandle beaches in early June.

The scientists, whose efforts are being coordinated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography with a $10 million grant from BP, said Wednesday that they are most worried that some degree of ecological collapse is taking shape in ways they don’t yet have the knowledge or tools to measure or predict.

Signs of some serious trouble were presented on the first day of the meeting, including observations of new, predatory species that are capable of inflicting damage on coral and sponge ecosystems.

David Hollander, professor of chemical oceanography at the University of South Florida, said water samples collected in pressure-holding containers at great depths were found to contain dissolved “benzene, toluene and xylene, all of these extraordinarily toxic and carcinogenic compounds.”

This excerpt is from an article by Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel. Read the entire piece here.

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