The tragedy is still unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is getting worse hour by hour. Not only because BP have so far failed to cap the flow of gushing oil, which some say could be discharging up to 25,000 barrels (more than one million gallons) of crude oil a day right now, but also toxic dispersant chemicals are being used, which will ultimately do further, and quite possibly worse damage to the environment longterm.
According to Wired Science: British Petroleum and government disaster-relief agencies are using a toxic chemical to disperse oil in the Gulf of Mexico, even though a better alternative appears to be available.BP and the U.S. Coast Guard have conducted tests with Corexit 9500, a chemical designed to break oil slicks into globules that are more quickly consumed by bacteria or sink into the water column before hitting shore.
The decision has been a controversial one. A few scientists think dispersants are mostly useful as public relations strategy, as they make the oil slick invisible, even though oil particles continue to do damage. Others consider Corexit the lesser of two evils: It’s known to be highly toxic, adding to the harm caused by oil, but at least it will concentrate damage at sea, sparing sensitive and highly productive coastal areas.
Better to sacrifice the deep sea than the shorelines.
But even as these arguments continue, with 230,000 gallons of Corexit on tap and more commissioned by BP, a superior alternative could be left on the shelf.
Called Dispersit, it’s manufactured by the U.S. Polychemical Corporation and has been approved for use by the Environmental Protection Agency. Both Corexit and Dispersit were tested by the EPA, and according to those results, Corexit was 54.7 percent effective at breaking down crude oil from the Gulf, and Dispersit was 100 percent effective.
Not only did Corexit do a worse job of dispersing oil, but it was three times as lethal to silverfish – used as a benchmark organism in toxicity testing — and more than twice as lethal to shrimp, another benchmark organism and an important part of Gulf fisheries.
As for why Corexit is being used instead of Dispersit, authorities haven’t yet said. According to the Protect the Ocean blog, U.S. Polychemical executive Bruce Gebhardt said the government had used Corexit before, and was sticking with what it already knows. Corexit makes up most dispersant stockpiles in the United States for this reason, though dispersant manufacture can be easily ramped up.
At another location I found this comment:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: “Earlier today, DHS Secretary Napolitano announced that this incident is of national significance and the Department of Interior has announced that they will be sending SWAT teams to the Gulf to inspect all platforms and rigs. And I have ordered the Secretaries of Interior and Homeland Security as well as Administrator Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency to visit the site on Friday to ensure that BP and the entire U.S. government is doing everything possible, not just to respond to this incident, but also to determine its cause.”
I can only wonder, what SWAT Teams will be getting up to? Perhaps dispersing more toxins?
So here we have it, this toxin (COREXIT) disperses the crude oil, so that it will settle in thick ugly globules on the bottom of the ocean, killing off marine life, but the shore line will remain pristine?
The fishing industry will be kaputzeed! Severe loss of jobs and loss of food for the supply chain, but the beaches will look pretty for the tourists!
This dispersant is not the most effective proven one, yet they continue to use it and say there is no proof that it will cause problems.
Meanwhile the British government has banned the use of it because it was found to harm and kill coastal invertebrates; it has a 54 percent success rate.
For whatever reason, the powers that be, deemed it wiser to use a toxic chemical with a 54 percent rate of effectiveness over a chemical with a 100 percent rate of effectiveness. But don’t worry. BP says they have tested it and it is safe, and The President is sending in the SWAT Teams – so all is good!
From the NYT —- a startling revelation NOT!
ONE of the oil industry’s favorite tools in fighting oil spills is chemical dispersants — indeed, over 300,000 gallons have been used so far in the Gulf. But as anyone who studied high school chemistry knows, like dissolves like: crude oil responds only to oil-based solvents, which are extremely toxic.
The first dispersants, released in the late 1960s, were quickly shelved because they turned out to harm wildlife more than crude oil did. Drums of Corexit 9527, a dispersant used to clean up the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, came with warning labels: “prevent liquid from entering sewers, watercourses or low areas.” Little has changed in 20 years.
Even worse, spraying dispersants in the Gulf in an attempt to minimize the oil’s damage to the coast would kill shrimp eggs and larvae and young fish in the open water. They can linger in the water for decades, especially when used in deep water, where low temperatures can inhibit biodegradation.
Dispersants may sound like a good idea, but they’re bad news, and their use should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
RIKI OTT, marine toxicologist and author of “Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill”