After the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, government officials were scrambling to contain the spill. Containment efforts included using the chemical dispersant Corexit to disband oil into small droplets that would mix with seawater and disappear below the water’s surface. Unprecedented amounts of dispersants were dropped from the air and applied at the wellhead with little or no prior testing on the effectiveness and adverse potential environmental consequences. BP’s biggest concern was to make sure the oil was “out of sight, out of mind” to divert the public’s attention away from the scope of the spill.
Many of those unknown effects have become evident in the past few years. Fishermen have struggled catching seafood at pre-spill levels and have observed oil sheens out on the water. Some residents and cleanup workers developed various symptoms and physical ailments that have been tied to the use of Corexit. The Medical Benefits Settlement was reached to compensate these individuals and offer periodic medical consultations to monitor these conditions.
As a result of these environmental consequences, the Environmental Protection Agency recently said it is planning to update standards for chemical dispersants used in response to oil spills. The proposed rules to the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan would require manufacturers “to provide more detailed production application materials, ecological toxicity data, and human health and safety information, including more detailed instructions for production application in the field.” Environmental groups are encouraged that the new rule contains the necessary regulations and oversight they have been seeking since 2001.
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