Should We Torch the Wetlands?

Controlled burn may be 'least bad' option
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2010 4:00 AM CDT
A dragonfly is stuck to marsh grass covered in oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Garden Island Bay on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.   (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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(Newser) – There are no good options for dealing with the oil soaking Louisiana wetlands but setting it on fire may be the best of the bad options available, scientists say. A controlled burn in a marsh area soaked in oil during Hurricane Katrina removed around 90% of the oil and allowed the area to recover to the state of nearby untainted marshes within 2 years, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researcher tells the Christian Science Monitor.

Other options for dealing with the oil from the Gulf spill include fertilizing microbes to help degrade the oil, but this carries the danger of triggering algae blooms, already a major problem in the Gulf of Mexico. Cutting oil-soaked marsh grasses is also being considered, although the necessary movement of people and machinery through the marshes is likely to send oil deeper into the sediment, where it will remain a problem for decades to come.

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