Oil Q&A

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 9, 2010; A04

Edward Overton, a Louisiana State University environmental scientist, answers questions about the oil spill. Send additional questions to health-science@washpost.com.

I have heard that after about 100 days the pressure from the oil will equalize with the water pressure and the flow will stop naturally. Is that right?

Overton: In a nutshell, no. We don't know how long it will take to play out. Any deep well has unlimited pressure pushing the water up. Ultimately, the oil will stop flowing out of this reservoir, and it will be water flowing out.

But we're talking about a mile below the surface of the ocean and then two miles into the ground -- so, three miles and an incredible amount of pressure.

It's certainly not going to stop in 100 days or anytime soon. Will it flow forever? I don't know.

What do scientists use to clean oil off the animals?

Regular old Dawn dish soap. It's very effective because it's got the same chemicals in it as the dispersant that they're spraying on the oil offshore. Cleaning birds is controversial because some say that Dawn has negative residual effects.

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