EPA scolds BP in Gulf oil spill: dispersant is too toxic, change it
After saying last week that it had no authority to tell BP which disperant to use for the Gulf oil spill, the EPA on Thursday told BP to switch dispersants to one that is less toxic.
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The White House stepped in Thursday to demand that BP provide more specifics about the scope of the spill and its flow rate. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the EPA’s Jackson sent a joint letter Thursday to BP demanding it set up a website in 24 hours that posts all pertinent plans, reports, and videos.Skip to next paragraph
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The letter says the company’s efforts to keep the public as well as lawmakers informed of the exact details of the spill “have fallen short in both their scope and effectiveness."
BP's dispersant choice
To deal with the massive spill, BP has applied more than 650,000 gallons of dispersant above and below the water. That volume – and the prospect that much more will be used – led the EPA to demand its less toxic alternative.
The two dispersants used by BP, Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A, are either comparable or 10 to 20 times more toxic than 12 other dispersants on the EPA’s approved list.
Not much is known about the underwater use of dispersants, especially with the high doses being used in the Gulf. Since Sunday, when the EPA allowed BP to inject the dispersants underwater, about 55,000 gallons have been released below the surface.
Environmentalists consider their use effective for ridding surface waters of oil but say when the toxins are broken down and become embedded on the sea bed they pose a significant threat to marine life.
Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Energy and Environmental Subcommittee, applauded the EPA’s decision. “The effect of long-term use of dispersants on the marine ecosystem has not been extensively studied, and we need to act with the utmost of caution,” he said in a statement released Thursday.
As BP changes gears in its containment, oil washed up along the beaches of Elmer’s Island, a six-mile wide wildlife refuge off the coast of Louisiana. The island is known for its camping and bird watching opportunities.
The discovery prompted state officials to ban all fishing from Elmer’s Island to Fourchon Beach, a three-mile stretch of water off the state’s western shoreline.
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