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Saturday November 22nd 2014

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The Fading Fingerprint

Now that BP and the state of Florida agree that the beaches are pretty much “clean,” officials will need to prove that new tar balls originated from the 2010 oil spill in order to have the company remove them. That task will get tougher as time passes.

Under a plan released last week by the U.S. Coast Guard, it has been determined that 90 percent of the effected beaches are clean and BP may move on to the restoration phase. The company will still clean up oil that can be positively linked to the spill.

According to LSU chemist Ed Overton it can be done. But it’s not that easy.

“It certainly can be done if you really know what you’re doing,” Overton said, adding that the British oil company would surely verify samples. “Let me tell you, BP people know what they’re doing.”

However, as time goes by the match will be more difficult to make.

“As it weakens it looses some of its ability to be a positive match,” Overton explained.

Recently, the LSU scientist was able to connect samples gathered at the Macando well spill site by Mobile Press-Register reporter Ben Raines as a match. Which is troubling because those samples were taken at the end of this summer.

“The oil we found with Ben had all the way down to C-10 in it, so it was pretty fresh oil,” Overton said.

He suspects the oil came from the riser pipe.

As the spill clean up phase wraps up and the restoration phase begins, local officials have estimated that area beaches still get between 200 to 500 pounds of tar balls every week.