Clean up of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest accidental oil spill in ocean waters off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, may have been accelerated in large part to microbes, deep-sea bacterias that feed on the oil leak. The work of microbes may be helping the coastal Gulf waters rebound more quickly than many scientists had anticipated, and the microscopic microbes are credited for breaking up and feeding on the petroleum through millions of years of evolution.
There is still debate surrounding how much of the 4.9 million barrels of oils still remain in the Gulf, but scientists from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory says that microbes may have already wiped out most, if not all, of the oil spill on the 22-mile coastline. The government is saying that about 75% of the oil already been cleaned, filtered, safely burned, or removed and findings from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution contradict the Lawrence Berkeley Lab team saying that the oil spill may linger for months from underneath the surface.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Oil experts and microbiologists have long known that the Gulf of Mexico harbored bacteria that had evolved to feed on petroleum hydrocarbons from natural oil seeps. Until now, no one knew whether so much oil would overwhelm these deep-dwelling bacteria or if they would grow so explosively that they would drain life-giving oxygen from the water, making it impossible for other marine life to survive.”
According to Dr. Terry Hazen of Lawrence Berkeley Labs, the microbes are doing their job and may have completely consumed the petroleum that was leaked into the Gulf. “We think, given the biodegradation rates we observed, that a large plume disappeared because of the biodegradation by the bacteria,” according to Dr. Hazen. “We no longer see any deep plumes that can be attributed to the leak.”Follow:GreenTop Stories