May 212010

P’s oil isn’t leaking “four or fives times” faster than everyone thought—at a rate of 4 million gallons per day, it’s twenty times worse than BP thought. And the chemical they’re using to “disperse” it is toxic, too.

Now the EPA has ordered BP to find a new, less toxic dispersant. (The stuff they use like dish detergent to break up clumps of oil.) The New York Times explains:

In seeking to break up the oil bubbling to the surface from the Deepwater Horizon well, BP has sprayed nearly 700,000 gallons of Corexit chemical dispersants on the surface of the gulf and directly onto the leaking well head, a mile underwater. It is by far the largest use of chemicals to break up an oil spill in United States waters to date.

But scientists and politicians have increasingly questioned why the agency is allowing use of the Corexit products when less toxic alternatives are available.

Because oil spills are relatively rare, only small amounts of a few dispersants are kept stockpiled, so at the outset of the disaster in the gulf, the amount of Corexit used was only in the tens of thousands of gallons. BP then ordered much more from its manufacturer, Nalco North America of Naperville, Ill., and applied the product repeatedly.

No government agency asked for details about Corexit’s negative effects until now.

So basically, a huge portion of our hemisphere is becoming poisonous in ways we can’t even fathom. Four million gallons of oil pours into the ocean every day. Hey, God, if you’ve got a miracle up your sleeve? Go for it. We certainly aren’t having any luck on our own. [McClatchy, NYT, image of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal with a dipstick via AP]
Maureen O’Connor, the author of this post, at

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