After winning a grant for Rapid Response Research from the National Science Foundation (NSF) following the April 22 BP oil spill, University of Georgia Athens (UGA) oceanographer Samantha Joye said the smell of the water was "nauseating." Joye said it had a gasoline-like smell in an interview released by the National Science Foundation on Sept. 20.
Though the well was sealed on Sunday, the impact on the Gulf is far from over.
Joye and a team of scientists from the UGA and other universities studied the Gulf of Mexico from May 24 through June 6 from a University of Miami research vessel, the Walton Smith. The trip focused on the underwater oil and gas plume and how it has affected marine life.
The researchers sometimes needed respirators and protective suits, especially near the site of the blowout, Joye said. Natural seeps of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico emit about 1,000 barrels a day for the whole body of water, but the amount in the plume she investigated was far beyond that."The gas concentrations are outrageously high," Joye told the NSF. "We have measured concentrations up to 100,000 times what we typically see in the Gulf of Mexico."
She also criticized the use of dispersants. They made it harder to get a clear picture of the amount of oil and gas, and have an unknown effect on marine life.
"The volume, the sheer magnitude of dispersant application is mind-boggling. The fact is that we have no idea what this could do to the system. The dispersant is a complex chemical milieu of who knows what," she said.
Joye testified before Congress soon after returning from the trip. She wants the disaster to serve as a wake-up call, and thinks each individual should think of their use of energy and its connection to the disaster.
One oil-soaked bird broke the hearts of all the scientists on the ship, she said. The "innocent animal" had been doing the same things he did all his life, and was suddenly coated in oil. He had a look of desperation and fear in his eyes, said Joye, holding back tears while speaking of it in the NSF video interview.