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As Oil Plumes Are Confirmed, Scientist Calculating Flow Rate Blasts BP

The U.S. has confirmed the existence of giant underwater oil plumes emanating from the BP spill, though at low concentrations, even as scientists remained frustrated at not being able to measure how much oil is still flowing.

As recently as last week, BP officials said they were not convinced of the existence of those giant, underwater oil plumes that independent scientists had discovered in the Gulf of Mexico.

Perhaps this will dispel their doubts: The government confirmed the existence of these plumes this morning.

Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Associated Press that the water tests showed "there is definitely oil sub surface," even if it is at very low concentrations.

BP CEO Tony Hayward had previously told The AP that "the oil is on the surface," and "there aren't any plumes."

And while scientists elsewhere have proved themselves right about the plumes, scientists on the government team charged with estimating the flow of crude from BP's ruptured well are getting frustrated with the company for stonewalling their efforts.

Late last month, the government's Flow Rate Technical Group released preliminary estimates of the oil flow, pegging the rate somewhere between 12,000 barrels a day to 19,000 barrels a day.

One of the scientists on the government team, however, is casting doubt on the accuracy of that early estimate. Ira Leifer told McClatchy that BP has still not handed over the data that his team needs need to get an accurate estimate of size.

He believes that since BP cut the pipe and placed a containment cap over it, the flow rate has gotten worse -- far worse than the 20 percent increase the government and BP had warned might occur before the containment cap was in place, according to The New York Times.

We've requested comment from BP on the allegations made by Leifer and will update if we hear back.

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