In this Tuesday, April 27, 2010 file photo, a dispersant plane passes over an oil skimmer as it cleans oil in the Gulf of Mexico near the coast of Louisiana. A preliminary test suggests that oil dispersant is washing up on Alabama beaches. AP Photo / Patrick Semansky

By Ben Raines, Press-Register
Tuesday, August 03, 2010, 5:00 AM 

The stained, brown water seen washing up in pockets along Alabama beaches for the last two weeks appears to contain the dispersant widely used on oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, according to a preliminary analysis.

The Press-Register collected samples from multiple locations along the Fort Morgan peninsula during the last several weeks and provided them to Ed Overton, a Louisiana State University chemist.

While heavy oil sheen was visible in the areas where the material was collected, little if any oil was found to be present in the samples, said Overton, who is analyzing oil samples for the federal government.

"We didn't see oil in the analysis we do, but I passed some of these water samples to a colleague who does fluorescence analysis," Overton said. "We saw some preliminary indications that there was a dispersant signal in the sample."

Fluorescence analysis provides ultra-fine detail and can measure chemicals to the parts per billion level or better. Overton said it was too soon to say definitively that the material in the samples was the Corexit dispersant, but the signal was similar to a Corexit sample.

Overton asked the Press-Register to take some of his researchers back to the sites this week to collect more samples for further study.

"I'm very interested in it. We need to find out what it is," Overton said. "If dispersants are getting onshore, that's news. We need to know that."

Over the last several weeks, Harriet Perry, a scientist at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, has collected larval crabs, finding blobs of oil beneath their shells. Further testing has suggested that there may be dispersant present in the crab bodies as well, she said.

"They looked specifically for the Corexit. It looks like they found it," Perry said of work by research colleagues at Tulane University. …

Tests suggest oil dispersant washing up on Alabama beaches

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