We all should thank the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for showing leadership on the chemical dispersant controversy in the Gulf. As manager for Ecology’s oil spill preparedness program, I have learned a lot from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill response and their experience with dispersants.
More than 700,000 gallons of dispersants appliedThe EPA regulates the approval of these products. More than 715,000 gallons of dispersants have been used so far in the Gulf – including 85,000 gallons that was applied underwater. Last week, EPA required British Petroleum (BP) to identify and use a less toxic, more effective product on the spill.
Less toxic, more effective dispersants neededThe Gulf brand, Corexit EC9500A, is on the EPA’s list of approved products but apparently has been banned in Great Britain for decades due to a limited toxicity test that produced negative results. The testing criteria in the United States are different than Britain’s.
This is something that should be looked at once the response is done. There may not be sufficient quantities of other, less toxic dispersants available in the quantities needed for this incident. However, BP should have been searching for that from the start.