Only tiny fraction of oil spilled will ever be recovered

VENICE, May 23, 2010 (AFP) – Despite a massive cleanup effort, experts warn that only a tiny fraction of the oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the wreckage of a BP-leased rig will ever be recovered. “The oil is out there and it’s out there to stay,” said Lisa Suatoni, a marine biologist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“There’s a dismal record of cleanup associated with oil spills. Generally less than one percent of spilled oil is ever cleaned up.”

Even in the case of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill – where billions were spent in a years-long effort to sop up the oil from a rocky and sandy shore and skim it off the relatively calm waters of Prince William Sound – only about seven to 10 percent of the oil was actually recovered, Suatoni said.

While a significant percentage of the Valdez oil was dispersed by natural processes, the shoreline is still littered with pockets of oil which sank into low-oxygen areas where its toxicity was preserved.

Which means every time an animal burrows in the wrong place or a big storm shifts things around on the beach more oil can bubble up.

The very nature of the Gulf of Mexico spill makes significant recovery impossible, said T