What's In Oil Spill's Toxic Stew? We Demand An Answer
Earthjustice files action to discover what's in chemical dispersant
Today, the maker of a controversial dispersant used in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill declared, "We have nothing to hide." In fact, that’s the headline of a New York Times story on the dispersant.
If that were true, we at Earthjustice and our clients wouldn’t have to take formal action to find out what’s in the dispersant. British Petroleum, which has used more than 800,000 gallons of "Corexit" to combat its oil spill, won’t reveal what is in the compound. Thus, we have been forced to send a formal Freedom of Information Act request to the Environmental Protection Agency, asking for the information.
The FOIA seeks the identities of all chemical ingredients in the dispersants eligible for use in the Gulf spill. It also seeks all health and safety studies and data and potential adverse effects reports for the chemical ingredients in the dispersants and unredacted correspondence between BP and EPA about dispersants in connection with the Gulf spill.
We have every reason to be concerned about whether the dispersants are in and of themselves threats to the environment, and to living things, including humans. ABC News did a piece on the threat, and there is some question about whether oil cleanup workers were sickened by it. And the Times shares our concerns:
Scientists have compared BP’s heavy use of dispersants in the Gulf to a massive chemistry and biology experiment, saying it is an exercise in environmental trade-offs. The chemicals break up oil that would otherwise float on the surface into tiny droplets that can sink and be consumed by fish, bacteria and microorganisms.
The consensus is that the 870,000 gallons of Corexit that have been either sprayed on the Gulf’s surface or injected underwater at the broken wellhead have likely spared beaches and wetlands from an even worse oil slick, while contributing to the formation of massive, difficult-to-track oil plumes underwater that could have long-term ecological consequences.
Once upon a time, only last week, the EPA also had concerns about the dispersant and BP’s use of it. The agency even ordered BP to stop using it. BP refused, and as of today, still is using it. Does EPA know something we don’t? Let’s find out.
From 2006–2014, Terry was managing editor for Earthjustice's blog, online monthly newsletter and print Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine.