Commentary: Gulf Oil spill's challenges are many

One day earlier this month a study revealed that the massive BP oil spill did not create the feared marine life "dead zones" deep beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Less than a week later, scientists reported crude now lies on the ocean floor at the one-mile depth, two inches thick atop dead shrimp and other small creatures.

The good news, bad news whiplash about the environmental impact from the blown-out Deepwater Horizon well will likely continue in the months ahead — and possibly years — as the effect of the 200 million gallons of leaked crude and the 800,000 gallons of chemical dispersants becomes more certain.

While the dispersants formed miles-long plumes of drifting subsurface oil, ocean currents and oil-devouring microbes apparently dissipated the crude and stopped the plumes from depleting oxygen levels and devastating marine life. While this comes as a positive sign of the Gulf's amazing natural ability to recover from disaster, the government must continue to monitor the spill zone, all the way to the sea floor.

Especially a mile deep, where the government might to prone to take an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach. Earlier federal proclamations claimed much of the oil had disappeared, optimistic assertions that are very shaky now. We must determine if oil did indeed sink to the bottom into a dense and thick coating several inches thick, as researchers’ samples show, and the subsequent threat to wildlife.

While the emergency response to the spill focused on beaches, marshes and surface sheens, the government cannot ignore what is not in plain sight.

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