Oil pollution spreads across Gulf – and could last for years to come

OIL from the Gulf of Mexico disaster has been found more than 100 miles from the leak, adding to fears of more pollution.

As slicks continued to wash ashore in the US, tests showed that plumes of oil were also lurking deep underwater.

Their presence carries implications for deep-sea life because tiny microbes eat them and consume oxygen, choking off the supply to other organisms.

The impact could cascade up the food chain, cutting off the food supply of larger predators.

The containment cap on the stricken BP wellhead is helping to limit the leak, collecting more than 620,000 gallons of oil.

But it is unclear how much oil is still escaping, and underwater video feeds continued to show a dark geyser.

The amount of oil kept from spilling into the Gulf “has climbed steadily,” Admiral Thad Allen said.

The initial clean-up could take months and the spill’s effects could linger for years. And as the oil patches dance unpredictably from coastline to coastline, residents who depend on tourism and fishing are wondering how to head off the damage or salvage a season that’s nearing its peak.

The random, scattered nature of the oil was evident this week near the Alabama- Florida state line. On the Alabama side, oil-laden seaweed littered beaches for miles, and huge orange globs stained the sands.

But at Perdido Key, on the Florida side, the sand was white and virtually crude-free.

“The daily images of the oil is obviously having an impact,” said Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the state closest to the leak and the one where the oil is having its most insidious effects on wildlife. “It’s having a heavy, real, very negative impact on our economy.”

Some of the most enduring of those images are of pelicans and other wildlife drenched in oil.

As the sun rose on Barataria Bay, Louisiana, just west of the mouth of the Mississippi River, marsh islands teemed with oily brown pelicans and crude-stained white ibis.

Some struggled to fly, fluttered and fell, while others just sat and tried to clean themselves, squawking and flapping their wings.

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