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Dispersant Use Continues in Gulf, Long-Term Contamination Feared

In fighting the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill, more than 1.6 million gallons of chemical dispersants have been dumped into the Gulf of Mexico and the number is still rising. As you may recall, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a directive in late May advising that use of the chemical dispersants should be cut by about 75% due to the potential for long-term environmental contamination. Despite that directive, large volumes of the toxic dispersant Corexit are being used by BP in attempting to manage the spill.

At the time the EPA directive was announced, BP had been using just under 26,000 gallons of dispersant per day since the beginning of the oil spill. Since the directive was issued, that total has fallen, but only by about 3,000 gallons a day. Some critics of the EPA response to the oil spill claim the government is not being tough enough with BP and is allowing them to further contaminate the Gulf with toxic chemicals that have unknown long-term effects.

The EPA has countered that criticism saying that dispersant use was on the rise before their directive and their subsequent efforts at controlling dispersant use have resulted in a reversal of their escalating usage. Moving forward, the EPA would like further reductions in the volume of chemicals used to fight the spill. The EPA and Coast Guard have recommended that no more than 18,000 gallons of the chemicals be used per day.

Coast Guard officials say they evaluate dispersant use every day and aim to use the “safest and most effective methods available” in order to continue fighting the spill and to protect the Gulf environment from long-term damage.

Testing of Corexit continues in efforts to better understand the effect it will have on the marine environment, but it may take years to fully measure the damage done by the oil spill and the chemicals used to clean it up.

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