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EPA To BP - Stop Using Toxic Dispersant

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, May 20, 2010 2:45 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Environmental Health, Gulf of Mexico, EPA, Dispersant, Chemicals

Still Spilling

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IMAGE SOURCE: CNN Web site

CNN is reporting that heavy, thick oil has begun polluting the Louisiana wetlands and estuaries.

Reporter, David Mattingly in Venice, Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi, found a thick, chocolate syrup-like oil for the first time in sensitive marshlands.

Gov. Bobby Jindal told a news conference that this is submerged oil, not a sheen or tar balls, that the tides are not taking out.

This crude from the Deepwater Horizon explosion has drifted past all efforts in the Gulf of Mexico to contain it - booms, skimming, and past people spraying it with dispersant.

Likening the oil to cancer, Gov. Jindal is asking the Army Corp of Engineers to start dredging and building up barrier islands to stop the oil from getting into environmentally sensitive areas easier to clean up.

“We’ve got to stop this cancer from spreading [and] we’d much rather fight it on these coastal barrier islands than inland,” he said.

The marsh grasses are expected to turn brown in a few days as the video news piece shows.

Ever optimistic, BP said Wednesday that its efforts to contain the ongoing gushing from a ruptured pipe have made a “measurable difference.” At a news conference BP’s COO said an insertion tube that sucks crude from the well has reached 3,000 barrels or 126,000 gallons of crude a day. BP hopes heavy mud (a fluid lubricant) inserted into the well will cement it shut.

Federal estimates are 5,000 barrels of crude or 210,000 gallons are being released each day.

Skimmers have taken in about 14,000 barrels of oily water have been skimmed.

Less Toxic Dispersant

The Environmental Protection Agency is ordering BP to use a less toxic dispersant on the oil spill because of concerns about the long-term effects.

The dispersant, Corexit, has been banned in the UK, yet London-based BP has a squadron of planes spraying dispersants to the spill surface hoping that it will change into small droplets and digested by microbes.

Dispersants are also being applied by robots on the sea floor close to the leak. Hundreds of thousands of gallons have already been used in Gulf waters.

The EPA is giving BP until midnight Thursday, May 20, to identify an alternative to Corexit 9500, reports CNN. The dispersant contains petroleum distillates, propylene glycol, and the generic term, organic sulfonic salt. Contact can irritate skin and eyes and the respiratory tract.

Huffington Post reports that Nalco is keeping some ingredients proprietary.

A newer formulation is reportedly made without 2-butoxyethanol, according to a National Research Council report.

The EPA has a list of 18 approved dispersants. Corexit 9500 is ranked more toxic than many others, according to testimony at a congressional hearing Wednesday.

But Rep. Edward Markey, (D-MA) is raising the red flag that we don’t know about the long term effects of dispersants on the marine ecosystem. “We need to act with the utmost of caution,” he warned in a letter to the EPA he sent Monday.

A House Committee pointed out that five other dispersants that are less toxic to mysidopsis shrimp. BP spokesman says “We are reviewing four alternative dispersants, using information in the public domain” reports Business Week.

Corexit, made by Nalco Holding Co., of Naperville, Illinois, issued a statement on the use of oil dispersants Thursday. Avoiding the EPA request it says “We are gratified that the EPA has acknowledged that the use of Nalco’s dispersants has been effective and has had no undue impact on the marine environment.”

The company's disclosure statement says, "No toxicity studies have been conducted on this product." It also says, "Based on our hazard characterization, the potential environmental hazard is: Moderate Based on our recommended product application and the product's characteristics, the potential environmental exposure is: Low."

The company has said Corexit is biodegradable. It reportedly was used in Alaska during the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Florida shrimpers are concerned the dispersant could lead to long-term environmental disaster by creating dead zones and contaminating fish that eat the dispersant. If the dispersant ends up on the Gulf floor shrimp larvae could be affected.

TampaBay.com reports that the Tarpon Springs, Florida-based Southern Shrimper Alliance has written expressing their concerns to federal officials.

There have been no toxicity studies on the product or studies on how it could affect wetlands, marine life, the coast or people. Corexit 9500 has been approved by the EPA. #


2 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by anne teters
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:00 AM EST

thank you for this article! keep up the great work!

Anonymous User
Posted by anne teters
Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:00 AM EST

thank you for this story! keep up the great work!

Comments for this article are closed.

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