Scientists Confirm the BP Oil Spill Is Larger Than Reported

Protestors against BP for the DeepWater Horizon oil spill that may be leaking 70,000 barrels a day, pictured here.The official figure from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the amount of oil leaking from BP's (BP) DeepWater Horizon rig wreck is 5,000 barrels a day. A number of scientists say that number is way too low, pegging the figure as high as 70,000 barrels -- or 2.94 million gallons -- of oil.

A group of scientists who began working in the Gulf a week ago have found "enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots," according to a report in The New York Times.

The scientists, who have been working with support from the NOAA, say the plumes are causing oxygen depletion in the deep water.

Efforts to Stanch the Flow

The new information may not alter any assumptions about oil on the surface of the Gulf, which are provided by the NOAA in map form each day. However, they may cause an increase in the amount of underwater dispersants used in the efforts to break up the slick.

But that process has its own potential hazards. NOAA reported that "undersea dispersant application resumed this morning [May 15], and BP is doing continuous testing. If tests reveal something we are concerned about, the dispersant application will be stopped."

National Guard troops have been deployed along the shoreline in Louisiana. They will make more floating piers to keep the slick from hitting land. But, it seems this will not be adequate if the new estimates of size of the leak are close to accurate.

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