As BP finishes pumping cement into the damaged Deepwater Horizon wellhead Thursday, some scientists are taking issue with a new U.S. government report that says the "vast majority" of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill has been taken care of by nature and "robust" cleanup efforts.
In addition, experts warn, much of the toxic oil from the worst spill in U.S. history may be trapped under Gulf beaches—where it could linger for years—or still migrating into the ocean depths, where it’s a "3-D catastrophe," one scientist said.
The U.S. government estimated Monday that the Deepwater Horizon spill had yielded about 4.9 million barrels’ worth of crude.
On Wednesday a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report said that about 33 percent of the spilled oil in the water has been burned, skimmed, dispersed, or directly recovered by cleanup operations. (See "Gulf Oil Cleanup Crews Trample Nesting Birds.")
Another 25 percent has evaporated into the atmosphere or dissolved in the ocean, and 16 percent has been dispersed via natural breakup of the oil into microscopic droplets, the study says. (Read more about how nature is fighting the oil spill.)
The remaining 26 percent, the report says, is still either on or just below the surface, has washed ashore or been collected from shores, or is buried along the coasts.