U of L biologist has experience with oil spill cleanup

Dr. Ron Atlas
Dr. Ron Atlas

Louisville, KY - By Jon Chrisos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A local biologist could soon be called upon by BP for his expertise. Dr. Ron Atlas hasn't talked directly with BP yet, but he expects to soon. He's talked with consultants working on the cleanup.

The University of Louisville biologist worked with officials back in 1989 to help clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. He developed a patented fertilizer that speeds up the breakdown of oil. The fertilizer is applied to sand and wetlands after oil reaches the shoreline. This cleanup method isn't being used yet, but Dr. Atlas says the oil loving fertilizer is another option.

"It's not instantaneous. It's not the same as picking it up oil with a rake and bucket and having it gone in 10 minutes," said Dr. Atlas. "This is a slower process, it's weeks, months or even years for some of the compounds to degrade naturally."

Estimates vary, but some say as much as million gallons a day are coming from the Deepwater Horizon well. 2 1/2 months later, oil has now come ashore along more than 500 miles of coastline in all 5 Gulf states.

BP officials say the first of two relief wells being drilled to stop the gulf oil gusher could be finished by the end of the month, but Dr. Atlas estimates it will take 10 to 20 years to clean-up the shorelines after the leak has been stopped. In fact, he says 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, there's still enough oil along the shore to fill a small swimming pool.

Copyright 2010 WAVE News. All rights reserved.