NOAA: Underwater oil plumes confirmed

NEW ORLEANS NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco said that the tests conducted at three sites by a University of South Florida research vessel confirmed oil as far as 3,300 feet below the surface 42 miles northeast of the well site. Oil also was found in a sub-surface sample 142 miles southeast of the spill, but further tests showed that oil is "not consistent" with oil from the spill.

"We remain concerned about the location of oil on the surface and under the sea," said Lubchenco.

BP had questioned whether oil actually was forming below water.

The containment cap that was placed on the /*BP*/ wellhead is helping limit the oil leak. Officials say more than 620,000 gallons of oil was collected on Monday, according to /*Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen*/.

Authorities reported that 460,000 gallons had been collected on Sunday.

As underwater video continues to show a dark geyser it is still unclear how much oil is still escaping. BP says they are planning on swapping out the current cap with a bigger one next month that can capture more /*oil*/.

"We're throwing everything at it that we've got," said Allen. "I've said time and time again that nothing good happens when oil is on the water."

Officials say that initial cleanup could take months and that the spill's effects could linger for years.

Coastline residents who depend on tourism and fishing are wondering how to head off the damage or salvage a season that's nearing its peak.

Allen said Tuesday that he will meet with BP to assess how well it is handling claims for relief from people hurt by the spill.

Latest developments:

  • The government says water tests have confirmed underwater oil plumes from the BP oil spill, but that concentrations are "very low." Tests conducted at three sites by a University of South Florida research vessel confirmed oil as far as 3,300 feet below the surface 42 miles northeast of the well site. The presence of underwater plumes carries implications for deep-sea life because tiny microbes eat up that oil and consume oxygen, choking off the supply to other organisms. The impact could cascade up the food chain, cutting off the food supply of larger predators.
  • /*President Barack Obama*/ says his talks with Gulf fishermen and oil spill experts are not an academic exercise. They're "so I know whose ass to kick." One target: Tony Hayward, the embattled chief executive of BP. Obama was asked by Matt Lauer of NBC's "Today" about Hayward's comments including "I want my life back," and that "the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest." "He wouldn't be working for me after any of those statements," Obama said. The interview, aired Tuesday, was part of a stepped-up White House effort to show Obama is actively engaged in dealing with the spill. Polls have shown a majority of Americans believe Obama has handled the crisis poorly.
  • British officials said Tuesday they would double the number of inspections carried out at oil rigs in the North Sea following the /*Gulf of Mexico*/ spill. Britain's Department of Energy said the average number of annual environmental checks aboard the country's 24-odd drilling rigs would rise from eight to 16, and said it was hiring three extra inspectors to help pursue the more aggressive program. The department did not provide details of the inspections, but said they involved visits to each rig.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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