EPA team monitors oil burns, tracks spreading oil in Gulf - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

EPA team monitors oil burns, tracks spreading oil in Gulf


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) – A team with the Environmental Protection Agency is collecting vital information on the oil spill in the Gulf.

"This is probably the most significant set of data that we've found from a health standpoint," said its team leader. 

The team responds to chemical or radiological emergencies all over the country. The eight team members were dispatched to South Mississippi on April 28.

"To provide data and information of where the oil's at, look at the severity of the oil in the Gulf and also determine whether or not we have any vapors which might impact the public," said Dr. Mark Thomas, EPA's ASPECT Program Manager.

The National Decontamination Team, working out of Gulfport, uses ASPECT technology.  A plane, equipped with sensors, flies over the oil spill site twice a day.

"This is the only aircraft of its type in the country that has infrared technology that allows the detection of chemical vapors and the ability to map those vapors," said Thomas.

The technology can help identify the chemicals that are emitted from burning oil. 

"The oil looks very nasty when it burns, lots of black smoke that's primarily carbon.  But we're finding very, very tiny amounts of acetaldehyde," said Walker.

Aerial images provide a map of the spill's location and its thickness. The team has taken more than 3,500 photos and infrared images, along with videos of the oil spill.

"Based on information that we have, it looks as if the winds have shifted favorably and they're kind of scooting it out into the Gulf," said Thomas.

The data gives responders to the disaster a better picture of the spread of oil and whether the chemicals from the oil burns are hazardous to our health.  The team has responded to 105 missions since 2001. 

You can see the photos and images by downloading a free Google Earth application. After you've installed Google Earth, you'll be able to view the link: epa.gov/bpspill/dhorizon_apr2010_nlink.kml

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