BP Oil Spill Dispersants Drifted, But Didn’t Degrade

Despite claims that chemical dispersants would help break down crude oil and eventually degrade in the water, a new study suggests that the spill hung around for months after the well was capped.

When the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico last April, it left an uncapped deepsea well that bled millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.

To clean up the mess, BP sprayed nearly approximately 771,000 gallons of a toxic chemical dispersant called Corexit 9500A–an act that was forbidden by the EPA, but continued for weeks.

The study, which was published in Environmental Science & Technology, found that popular to contrary belief, the dispersant did not degrade but instead moved with the oil plumes until at least September, 2010.

Prior to the Gulf oil spill disaster, no deepwater applications of dispersant had been conducted, and thus no data existed on the environmental fate of dispersants in deepwater.

“When you read about Corexit, it’s supposed to biodegrade,”  Carys Mitchelmore of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science told WiredScience. But specific rates have not generally been reported, she adds. So the dispersant’s apparent persistence in the new paper is somewhat unexpected.

Researchers like Mitchelmore admit that the jury’s still out on whether Corexit’s toxic cocktail of ingredients really act as a catalyst for oil degredation, or whether they actually make things worse.

As Care2′s Jasmine Greene reported recently, it’s not the lingering dispersant itself that could mean big problems for the environment and wildlife, it’s the mixture of Corexit and crude oil.

“The mix creates, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), which has been identified as a carcinogen, mutagen and teratogen. The dispersant mixes with the oil and becomes water soluble, which then evaporates into the air. This harmful chemical comes down as rain in addition to being in the water on the beaches, soil, wetlands, even crab, oyster and mussel tissue.”

Read More:
The After-Effects Of The BP Oil Spill
Dispersing Ain’t Cleaning
BP’s Dispersant Could Cause Toxic Rain

Image Credit: NOAA

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Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever4 years ago

Might not degrade the oil but it sure degrades America.

Hege Torset
Hege Torset4 years ago

thanks for sharing

Denise S.
Denise S.4 years ago

Please don't forget that we also have a very serious spill in Michigan and a whistleblower who is in danger here, John Bolenbaugh.

Gail Lopez
Gail Lopez4 years ago

No surprise.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

We told you so, a long time ago.

Rose N.
Rose N.4 years ago

Thank you for posting.

Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago

Sad thing is anyone with half a brain knows you dont clean a toxic mess by adding more toxins. all BP wanted to do was use it to hide the truth from the people.

Colleen S.
Colleen S.4 years ago

When will we learn?

Colleen S.
Colleen S.4 years ago

When will we learn?

Winston Q.
Winston Q.4 years ago

Nalco Chemical of Naperville, IL profited hundreds of millions on this deadly chemical. Disgusting.