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Obama's Beach Will Be Clean, But Oil Lies Beneath Sand Nearby

First Posted: 08/12/10 08:53 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 06:20 PM ET

Obamas Gulf Visit

The Florida Panhandle beach where the Obamas are going to spend the weekend to boost tourism in the region is indeed pristine and oil-free.

Panama City Beach, where the White House has announced the first family will be staying Saturday and Sunday, was spared the worst of the BP oil spill, sullied only by sporadic tar balls that were easily cleaned up.

Starting just 80 miles to the west, from Pensacola Beach and on to Alabama, the beaches were hit a lot worse. And a University of South Florida scientist told HuffPost those beaches, thanks to a "superficial" cleanup job by BP, remain contaminated.

In some cases, the beaches look clean at first glance - certainly as compared to when they were covered in brown oil - but they "weren't cleaned up very well," said Ping Wang, an associate professor of geology at USF whose research teams have been monitoring the shoreline.

"There are small tar balls everywhere on the back beach, and there's buried oil that wasn't cleaned up," Wang said.

According to Wang's report, at least as much oil as was cleaned up remains buried under the surface.

"The buried oil contamination has been observed up to 6 inches thick extending over a wide zone of beach," the report says. "Buried oil is much more difficult to clean because it is not directly visible and buried to various depths. In addition, buried oil will have a much longer lasting effect because it will not be weathered by the sunlight as easily as the surface oil."

Wang said the Obamas shouldn't just stay where they're based. "I think they should inspect a beach that's contaminated more than Panama City Beach," he said. "If they look carefully, if they dig a hole on the beach, they'll find what's left over from a superficial cleanup."

And that includes the kids. "If they dig a hole, they'll find oil," Wang said. "I'll be happy to go help them."

"Every minute you see a BP advertisement saying they're committed to cleaning up the coast. Well, that's not cleanup," Wang said. "They need to do a lot more."

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