BY Sean Alfano
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Think the Gulf oil spill is over? Think again, say some scientists.
Researchers from the University of Georgia called a recent government report "inaccurate" on Monday for claiming that three-quarters of the oil leaked from BP's blown-out underwater well had either been collected, evaporated or burned off. [See a roundup of political cartoons on the BP oil spill.]
Instead, the scientists say nearly 79% of the oil still remains in the Gulf of Mexico in some form.
"One major misconception is that oil that has dissolved into water is gone and, therefore, harmless," said Charles Hopkinson, a marine scientist who headed the study, told the Wall Street Journal. "The oil is still out there, and it will likely take years to completely degrade."
A second study, conducted by a team at the University of South Florida, says dispersants used to break up the massive spill has pushed the oil to the bottom of the ocean floor.
"The dispersant is moving the oil down out of the surface and into the deeper waters, where it can affect phytoplankton and other marine life," said John Paul, a USF marine microbiologist told CNN.
The April 20 explosion of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon rig triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, the government reported. [See a slide show of the oil industry's favorite lawmakers.]
Eleven rig workers died in the blast.
According to the report filed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of the Interior two weeks ago, 33% of the oil from the spill was collected, skimmed from the surface, burned or dispersed.
About 25% naturally evaporated and 16% dispersed into "microscopic droplets," the report said.
Meanwhile, the government's point man for the oil spill, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Monday he is not sure when the "bottom kill" for the exploded well will begin, but that once it does, it will take up to a week to complete.