[CT Birds] CT Fund for the Environment

james.bair at snet.net james.bair at snet.net
Tue Jun 8 22:26:46 EDT 2010

Dear Bev:

You wrote:

6/7  FYI:  To any interested individuals:
 People I am speaking with feel that sometime this summer we may see  some 
effects of the Gulf oil spill here in Long Island Sound...scary & sad.  
Both Norwalk aquarium & Mystic aquarium referred me to the
CT Fund for the environment
  _http://ctenvironment.org/_ (http://ctenvironment.org/) 
It seems that they will be a major player in initiating any actions to be  
I am hoping they will provide volunteers with training to help de-oil any  
birds that need help or any other aspects  that may impact the sound.
Bev Propen, Orange

Back when I was in the Coast Guard my main job was oil spill cleanup and related law enforcement. I also taught at the Coast Guard's Marine Environmental Protection School.

Oil floats on water, so most of it will end up on the surface. The more volatile parts of petroleum (what they get gasoline and naptha from) will evaporate. Oil gets on the surface is far more affected by wind than by current. Indeed, the Gulf states were pretty lucky because when the blast occurred, the prevailing winds were from the north.

Currents do affect the movement of oil some, but I would very surprised if anything from the Gulf ended up in Long Island Sound. (We also have the Race which even on an incoming tide tends to flow out from the Sound).

As the volatile compounds of the oil evaporate, the oil will get thicker. The stuff you see on TV is like that. Over time, it becomes more tar-like, and after a big spill tar balls may appear at some distance from the spill. They are less of a mess to deal with, but they are also more persistent. I suspect that if anything gets around the Florida peninsula, it will be more like tar balls--assuming the well shuts down some time in the not too distant future.

If you are interested in helping with a cleanup, go to the Gulf Coast now if you can. If any tar balls manage to make it to the Northeast, they would probably come ashore on the south shore of Long Island or Cape Cod.

Eventually, microbes will break down the oil, but that will likely take years. I know at one time the Coast Guard was hoping they could either isolate enzymes from the bacteria or breed hungrier bacteria, but I have never heard that those experiments had much success. One of our Listserve contributors works with a guy who knows more about oil-eating bacteria than most people and may have a different take on that. (I am forwarding this to him).

Jim Bair

More information about the CTBirds mailing list