Oil bubbles to the surface of the Gulf of Mexico within one mile northeast of BP's Macondo well on 23 August 2011. Jeff Dute / Press-Register

By Ben Raines, Press-Register
24 August 2011

MOBILE, Alabama – Oil is once again fouling the Gulf of Mexico around the Deepwater Horizon well, which was capped a little over a year ago.

Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of small, circular patches of oily sheen dotted the surface within a mile of the wellhead. With just a bare sheen present over about a quarter-mile, the scene was a far cry from the massive slick that covered the Gulf last summer.

Floating in a boat near the well site, Press-Register reporters watched blobs of oil rise to the surface and bloom into iridescent yellow patches. Those patches quickly expanded into rainbow sheens 4 to 5 feet across.

Each expanding bloom released a pronounced and pungent petroleum smell. Most of the oil was located in a patch about 50 yards wide and a quarter of a mile long.

The source of the oil was unclear, but a chemical analysis by Louisiana State University scientists confirmed that it was a sweet Louisiana crude, and could possibly be from BP PLC’s well. […]

Last week, in response to Internet postings by lawyers and environmental groups describing a leak, BP issued a blanket denial, stating, “None of this is true.”

Subsequently, the Gulf Restoration Network and Bonny Schumaker with On Wings of Care took aerial photographs of circles of oil floating in the area Friday. The group filed a report with the National Response Center, the federal clearinghouse for pollution incidents. […]

“I think the primary source with high probability is associated with the Macondo well,” said Robert Bea, an internationally prominent petroleum engineer and professor emeritus at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. Bea responded to Press-Register questions via email after examining photographs taken by the newspaper. […]

Mahi-mahi and blue runners were schooling in the area. In the distance, yellowfin and blackfin tuna could be seen churning the water to a froth as they attacked bait. A 40-foot whale shark also surfaced in the area.

Deepwater trouble on the horizon: oil discovered floating near source of Gulf of Mexico spill

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