Earlier this week, Care2′s Nancy Robers reported that BP was using a chemical dispersant called Corexit–also known as deodorized kerosene–to break spilled oil into tiny drops, which would then sink underwater.
(Kind of like fighting fire with fire, huh?)
While it seemed that this toxic practice would continue unabated for the duration of the spill, environmentalists everywhere cheered when the EPA announced it had informed BP officials that they had 24 hours to choose a less toxic form of chemical dispersant to clean up its mess in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Washington Post reports that 655,000 gallons of Corexit have been sprayed into the Gulf so far, with little to no thought of negative effects on the already damaged ocean habitat.
The EPA directive requires BP to identify a less toxic alternative – to be used both on the surface and under the water at the source of the oil leak – within 24 hours and to begin using the less toxic dispersant within 72 hours of submitting the alternative.
If BP is unable to identify available alternative dispersant products, BP must provide the Coast Guard and EPA with a detailed description of the alternative dispersants investigated, and the reason they believe those products did not meet the required standards.
While Corexit is currently on the agency’s approved list, BP was attempting to use it in unprecedented volumes and, last week, began using it underwater at the source of the leak – a procedure that has never been tried before, and could be very dangerous for deep sea wildlife.
Just days ago, Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) sent an urgent letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noting that some formulations of Corexit were banned in Britain more than a decade ago due to their tested harmful effects to sea life.
“I commend the Obama administration for acting swiftly to address my concerns that the dispersant BP chose to use is more toxic than other available formulations,” said Markey, who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the Energy and Commerce Committee. “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.”
Some might say this cautious stance is “too little, too late” when it comes to addressing the risks of offshore drilling, but with the undersea well still spewing crude oil into the Gulf a month after the intial accident, we’ve got to take the good news as it comes.
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Find full Care2 Coverage of the Spill here.
Image Credit: NOAA
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