As we all know, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has not yet been contained and has finally reached the Gulf Coast shoreline. Last week, after some careful monitoring of the depths of the Gulf the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered BP to halt the use of the chemical dispersant, Corexit, which they were using to break up massive amounts of oil. The EPA now believes that Corexit is highly toxic, so BP was given 24 hours to find new, less harmful solution. BP responded by saying that Corexit isn’t as toxic as they think, and after giving a vague explanation told the EPA that they were just going to keep on using it because it’s working fine.
Workers in the Gulf are struggling to cover the entire coastline in a barrier to keep oil from washing ashore and after this latest chemical saga, it seems they’ll be protecting us from BP’s solutions as well. The label for Corexit notifies the user that it will irritate eyes and skin if it comes in contact with them, and warns that it is not to be inhaled and could harm red blood cells, kidney or liver if swallowed. One could assume that if this is the effect it has on humans, the fish and wildlife in the Gulf will react much the same. The EPA actually initially approved Corexit for use, but after BP dumped upwards of 700,000 gallons of the noxious concoction into the waters, the EPA rescinded its approval. The EPA based this latest decision on the depleted oxygen levels in the deep gulf waters. Depleted oxygen levels are lethal to all living organisms.
The EPA ordered BP to find another available chemical that has less harmful effects and to start using the new chemical within 4 days of receiving the order to end Corexit use. Now BP has, in a lengthy letter, explained to the EPA that they’re wrong. Corexit is the best solution for this issue. It’s not as toxic as the EPA thinks and that, oh, by the way they, “have an inventory of 246,380 gallons of COREXIT that are available for immediate use, and the manufacturer is able to produce an additional 68,000 gallons/day, which is sufficient to meet all anticipated dispersant needs at this site.” So now that they’ve got it, they might as well use it. They also note that they did find some other less toxic solutions, but they can’t get their hands on them. So they’re just going to keep using this dangerous chemical to fight the dangerous plumes of oil.
The EPA’s real reaction to this is not known at the moment. Though they did say they will, “continue to work over the next 48 hours to ensure BP is complying with the directive.” Super duper guys. This whole disaster clean-up process seems to be going just perfectly. The oil has been spilling for a month now. So, another 48 hours can’t hurt.