EPA Orders BP To Cut Back Corexit Dispersant on Gulf Oil Slick

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Please check out the sidebar and epilogue in this post to learn about the dispersant Corexit pushed by BP and the insecticide DDT the government pushed on farmers at the end of World War II).

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered BP to cut back by 50 to 75% of the oil dispersant Corexit Monday because they don’t believe the oil company’s word that it does not effect sea life

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the feds will conduct their own independent tests of the chemical in which 800,000 gallons have been sprayed on the Gulf’s oil slick. For reasons she did not explain, BP is allowed to continue releasing the dispersant on the source of the gusher 5,000 feet deep and 50 miles south of Louisiana.

BP last week failed to comply with an EPA request to find an alternative dispersant which an irate Jackson said was “insufficient.”

As frustration mounts and the leak continues to gush gas and crude oil at the rate of at least 5,000 barrels per day since April 20, the feds are taking a more proactive role in monitoring the cleanup where this weekend it reached Port Fourchon, La., in the form of a chocolate and cherry syrup with a stomach-gagging smell.

Jackson said the government must know the long-term effects of the unprecedented amount of chemicals released on even a large body of water as the Gulf of Mexico.

“We are not satisfied that BP has done extensive analysis of other dispersant options,” Jackson said. “They were more interested in defending their original decisions than studying other options.” A federal lab in Florida will begin testing the dispersant’s effectiveness and toxicity.

One thing the feds cannot do independently is cap the leak despite Interior Secretary Ken Salazar repeating his claim to put a “boot on the neck” of BP and “push them out of the way appropriately” if their efforts continue to fail.

A cooler head prevailed Monday when Adm. Thad Allen, Coast Guard commandant in charge of the government’s response, said at a White House briefing the feds are in no position to take over the job of stopping the leak.

“I know that, to work down there right now, you need remotely operated vehicles,” he said. “You need to do very technical work at 5,000 feet. You need equipment and expertise that’s not generally within the … federal government, in terms of competency, capability or capacity.”

BP’s credibility is once again at stake Wednesday when it attempts a “top kill” operation, which involves pumping heavy liquids into the wellhead to plug it and then drown it with cement. If the procedure works, the gush of oil from a broken pipe connected to the wellhead could end by Wednesday night.

If it fails, engineers fear the process will blow out the preventer system in the ruptured pipe and release the full force of hundreds of thosands pounds per square inch thrust from the earth’s crust some 8,000 feet below the break.

The top-kill effort was successful in eventually capping all the oil fires the Iraqi’s ignited during the first Gulf War in Kuwait. But those wells were at ground level and no where near the complexities seen in the Gulf of Mexico.

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SIDEBAR

The 800,000 gallons of Corexit (EC9527A) BP said it has dumped on the Gulf oil slick is manufactured by Nalco Co. of Naperville, Illinois. On its website, Nalco reports it has tested its product on much smaller surfaces than the Gulf. Its findings based on EPA models is that the product is “not expected” to bioaccumulate and its environmental hazard and exposure characterization is “moderate.”

It reports its hazardous properties of butoxyethanol, organic sulfonic acid salt and propylene glycol. On humans, excessive exposure may cause injury to red blood cells, kidney or the liver. It is harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed which would include some sea life although the anecdote is flushing with clean water.

Nalco’s No. One customer is Big Oil.

Despite its diatribe against what it calls the “private, foreign International Monetary/Banking Cartel” that includes the U.S. Federal Reserve, the website Republican Broadcasting Network claims there are alternative dispersants shown to be far less toxic and in some cases twice as effective as Nalco’s Corexit.

Even our own EPA data ranks Corexit as being 20 times more toxic, and far less effective in handling southern Louisiana crude than some other dispersants.
Historically, workers who have cleaned up after the use of Corexit have suffered with health problems, including blood in their urine.
Carys Mitchelmore, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Environmental Science asked, “Why wouldn’t you go for the lesser toxic formulation?”

The website identifies by name much smaller alternative dispersants handled by cleanup crews.

“It’s a chemical [Corexit] that the oil industry makes to sell to itself, basically,” said Richard Charter, a senior policy advisor for Defenders of Wildlife.

It did refer to a non-toxic material called “Oil Sponge,” it said was rated the “best performing” absorbent by the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers. It said Oil Sponge is built using a microbial and nutrient package, capable of transforming oil hydrocarbons into a safe bi-product of carbon dioxide and water.

The website also charges BP and the Obama administration for not using a paper towel developed by Mycelx of Georgia after the March 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska that soaks up 50 times its weight in oil.

I can’t vouch for the veracity of that claim. But we all remember people laughing at actor Kevin Kostner for suggesting hairnets to collect oil. It was no laughing matter to one hair salon magnate. Reports RBN:

In fact, Lisa Gautier, president of Matter of Fact has collected 400,000 pounds of hair, and stuffed it all into nylons to be used as booms near Gulf shores.

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EPILOGUE

My father, a vegetable farmer for 50 years, told me the biggest regret in his life was listening to U.S. Department of Agriculture botanists telling him at the end of World War II that all his insecticide problems would be solved forever by using the government’s new wonder killer DDT. Unknown at the time because it was rushed into the war effort to control typhus, mosquito born malaria and universal agricultural insecticide, was the long-lasting residual effects on birds, animals and humans by killing the nerve system. Dicholrodiphenyltrichloroethane was discovered by Swiss scientist Paul Muller and is a mixture of isomers which are chemical molecules. Unlike Corexit, DDT had the ability to bioaccumulate, especially in higher animals where its devastating potential mimics hormones and disrupts endocrine systems in the animal body, including humans. Upon receiving this crash course in chemistry years after it was too late, my father’s faith in the government diminished. “My reputation depended on those bastards,” he said. I’m confident President Obama has the same feeling for BP.

Cross posted onThe Remmers Report

Posted comments are welcome and automatically go to my email address at jkremmers@gmail.com in which I will reply when appropriate. Remmers’ varied career spans 26 years in the newspaper business. Read a more thorough resume on his blogsite.

Author: JERRY K. REMMERS, TMV Columnist

Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.

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