The National Contingency Plan provides that in actions taken to recover oil, or to mitigate its effects, “sinking agents” can’t be used. It doesn’t say shouldn’t – it clearly says they can’t be used. Sinking agents are those additives applied to oil discharges to sink floating pollutants below the water surface. Never before had dispersants been used at the depth of BP’s well. As a result nobody really knows for sure how that chemical mix will interact physically and chemically under pressure with oil, water and gases. It is believed by many experts that the damage done – both short and long term – will be devastating.
As BP had its public relations campaign going full blast in an attempt to convince folks that oil and chemicals in the Gulf aren’t so bad, Congressional investigators were reporting that too much toxic chemical dispersant had been used by BP. The investigators said the U.S. Coast Guard routinely approved BP requests to use thousands of gallons of chemicals every day to break up the oil in the Gulf, despite a federal directive to use the dispersant rarely. For example, it was reported that the Coast Guard approved 74 waivers over a 48-day period after the EPA order. Only in a few instances did the government scale back BP’s requests.
Rep. Edward Markey, (D-MA), released a letter last month that said instead of complying with the EPA restriction, “BP often carpet bombed the ocean with these chemicals and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it.” While the chemical dispersant appears to be effective at breaking up the oil into small droplets to more easily be consumed by bacteria, the long-term effects to aquatic life are largely unknown. That environmental uncertainty has led to several disputes between BP and the government over the use of dispersants on the water’s surface and deep underwater when oil was flowing unchecked out of the well. I fear that the chemicals used by BP may wind up being more of a long term problem than the oil. More will be said on this aspect of the disaster in a separate section of this issue.
Source: Associated Press
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