Oil Spill Sinking Not Shrinking Thanks to Toxic Dispersants

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At first glance, the latest forecast image from NOAA shows that the oil spill is significantly smaller than in previous days.  The truth is that the amount of oil spewing out of the seafloor has not changed.  Experts say that the oil is sinking and breaking up due to the usage of chemical dispersants; which is essentially the job of theses chemicals.

It is important to understand that oil spill dispersants do not in any way reduce the amount of oil spewing from its source nor do they eliminate oil from the environment.  What these chemical agents are designed to do is alter the physical and chemical properties of the oil allowing it to sink further down into the water column.

Just for a second, imagine what a wildlife impact from an oil spill would look like.  What is the first image that came to mind?  Was it a bird, an otter or a dolphin covered in oil?  Whereas surface oil has the potential to devastate birds, land animals and marine mammals, oil that moves down deeper into the ocean has the potential to devastate those animals that do not come up for air as well as entire subsurface ecosystems (coral reefs and other benthic environments).

Once oil is dispersed, broken up or sunk it is actually harder to clean it up.  That pollution will remain in the environment and be taken up by marine organisms for decades.  The usage of these chemicals and figuring out their long-term effects is like one giant mad science experiment on the environment.

Why Oil, Dispersants and Marine Life Don’t Mixcoral-reef-life

Crews dealing with the clean-up of the ongoing ecological disaster in the Gulf, have found themselves grasping for last-ditch and dangerous methods of preventing some of the surface oil from reaching shore.  Since last week, BP  deployed over 156,000 gallons (3,000 gallons applied subsurface) of chemical dispersants over parts of the spill; the single largest application in our nation’s history.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, the use of chemical dispersants has been extremely controversial for decades because of their toxicity to human and marine life as well as the general scientific uncertainty of its long-term impacts on the environment.  The administration of any chemical dispersant to combat oil spills is said to be a very difficult decision for oil spill responders and natural resources managers.  In fact, “even on the Exxon Valdez spill, dispersants weren’t used all that readily” said Richard Gaudiosi, president of the Delaware Bay and River Cooperative.

Chemical dispersants and the oil particle pollution they leave behind can kill fish eggs and disrupt embryonic development in other sea life.  Research studies have shown that traces of oil compounds and chemical dispersant by-products can be found in the tissues of seafood.  This could have serious and long-lasting implications on the Gulf region’s fishing and shellfish industry.

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BP’s Choice Dispersant: Four Times More Toxic than Oil

BP’s chemical dispersant of choice, Corexit 9500, is “a compound associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems at high doses”.  This particular chemical is actually more toxic than oil.  According to an investigative article, oil is toxic at 11 ppm while Corexit 9500 is toxic at 2.61 ppm; therefore making this compound for times more deadly than the oil itself.  The article points out that although there is less Corexit being introduced than oil, one is not ‘less evil’ than the other because they are both being introduced into the ocean.

Is BP Trying to “Hide” the Evidence?

Interestingly enough, BP has already purchased more than a third of the world’s supply of these chemical dispersants when there are more effective and less toxic oil dispersants available on the market today.  One such EPA approved product is called Dispersit.  It is water-based rather and therefore less toxic than the petroleum-based Corexit.  This alternative dispersant is said to have “slight to no” impact on human health.  Additionally, Dispersit is 100% more effective on the type of crude gushing out into the Gulf.  Currently very little of Dispersit is being used on the gulf disaster which is raising some eyebrows.  Many are asking why BP has chosen Corexit and some are suggesting that BP is trying to hide millions of gallons of oil from the public eye.

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9 Comments

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Not just BP. The Obama administration, certain politicians, think of all the people who have a vested interest in sweeping this under the rug. If they can minimize images of oil soaked beaches it will be a lot easier to spin the aftermath. I can already here “not one drop of oil made it to the beaches”. It will be up to the public to hold their feet to the fire. No more offshore drilling!


Comment by Chris on May 5, 2010 7:42 pm


stop listening to rush… LOL… i am not a fan of this administration or the previous one… but to say the “obama administration” is trying to hide oil is a pathetic stab… lets put you in charge of this… what do we do? where do we deploy the boom? whats the next orders? common, speek up!

this caught everyone off guard… its like the 500 year flood… you know its going to happen, but then when it does your caught like, “dang, didnt see that one comming”

i do fault BP in this for several reasons because after sitting accident investigations, i can tell you that it wasnt the rig blowing up that caused this… it wasnt the BOP that woul dnot close that caused this and it probably wasnt a fire boat that sunk the drilling rig with water cannons… its a chain of events… when the rig was evacuated, what training did they have? were the valves and water tight doors all closed? who precharged the BOP before it was set on the sea floor? did it have enough pressure to work in 5000 feet of water? did the person that did it have proper training to foresee that?

as for as the dispersants, ias a tankerman of 14 years, we were NOT alloowed to use dispersants to clean up an oil spill… in fact, it was against federal law!!! we had to remove the oil from the ecological system… that was it… you only use dispersants on the remainder sheen and then only certian ones…


Comment by GreatDane on May 5, 2010 8:17 pm


If BP is in fact damaging the ocean ecosystem (4 times) more by using dispersants, isn’t it time daddy took the keys away for their own good? Let BP foot the bill for the cleanup, but lets bring in someone (private contractors, the EPA? — whoever knows how to get it done) who actually wants to clean up that oil, not just their own reputation.


Comment by Rich Rennicks on May 5, 2010 9:10 pm


i agree with you Rich Rennicks totally… and thats what is in fact happening… it was such a mad rush in the beginning because of such a huge amount of things going on that everyone showed up… the spill response companies were told, “get out there, deploy the boom” and thats what they did… only there was no thought in it and it was just deployed… this is just like a small spill drill like the ones we did… our training was quite hands on and simple, yet affective… we would hold a monthly spill drill where someone would sneak outside and throw some corn in the water and then sound a spill drill after it spread out some… we would each know what the duties were, so if i was first to show up on the outside of the boat, obviously i’d start launching the skiff… the next man would see me doing that and him and the next person to make it on deck would go get the spill boom ready and so on…

the tricky part came when this happened at the company dock with multiple boats… now you have multiple crews responding… the trick is to organize yourselves into a proper and orderly response that tackled the spill efficiently and effectively given the manpower and equipment that is suddenly avaliable… you don’t have time to sit around and pick straws as to who will do what… you have a spill to respond to and so you rely on your training and knowledge of wind direction, current and any obstacles and limitations of your equipment or materials to melt yourself into the spill response…

thats basically the problem that happened here… instead of a unified command and response, you have multiple agencies along with BP all responding in an orderly and disorderly fashion… and then you have boby jindal, governor of an oil rich state full of oil wells and refineries demanding a plan… LOL… hmmm, shouldn’t he be giving everyone else that is part of the massive response the plan?

as for my opinion on this all, its such an unpredictable situation that any response is better then no response at all… there are just so many things that went wrong… and we cant forget those 11 workers that lost their lives in all this mess… this had the potential to eclipse the piper alpha disaster in the north sea where 167 men died thanks to a unfortunate chain of events… so we need to thank someone that only 11 died…

Piper Alpha Disaster Documentary:

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RLY36yXne0
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ejWS-GTxS4
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIetqlHbLdk

its a bummer this had to happen… but it can be a huge lesson to us all and there should be unified response drills held with all parties and that will harden the response for any future problems…

i’d like to end this with a big thanks to all the workers and volunteers that are currently helping and those yet to arrive because this will be a huge mess if it touches land…


Comment by GreatDane on May 6, 2010 1:19 am


Oh come on you don’t think the Obama administration was initially doing everything they could to minimize this distaster from “Day 1″? Callous statements like “not the first and won’t be the last”. If anyone attached to Bush had made such and arrogant and dismissive comment the press would have been howling. I’m not excusing the guilty but you can’t just look the other way and give Obama a pass because he’s “one of the good guys” when he is clearly an apologist for Big Oil. He made a deal with the devil behind closed doors to get industry support for cap and trade (the biggest scam of the 21st century) and if some poor white trash down there in chemical alley has to “take one for the team” so be it. This calculation has quite literally blown up in his face.


Comment by Chris on May 6, 2010 6:31 am


chris, since when is the government (the american people) the official cleanup company of oil spills? i dont recall this happening for exxon valdez… its an accident where luckly, only 11 men died… the sinking of the deepwater horizon buckled the 5000 ft high riser pipe and broke it in apparently 3 places from kinking… while the responding supply boats fought the fire, no one seen what was about to happen… the BOP was supposed to be shut… its not like you get on an elevator and press b500 and go down to sea floor and look around while drinking a hot cup of mocha while snacking on a donut the receptionist had on her desk on your way to the elevator for your morning watch… and your forgetting something… remember the weather? the wind whipped up the seas, an unusually high tide… this could have been super bad if the oil had made it to the marsh for high tide…

the reason the government stepped in was because this exploded into a mess bigger then anyone realized coupled with the several days of bad wether that no one could pick up any oil off the gulf in… it was such a huge mess at this point that you dont wait around… you move in with everything you can…

i have been on several spills and done hundreds of spill drills and sat on lots of accident investigation boards… while this was kind of FUBAR’d in the beginning, given the circumstances and the need to rush, i think its going good accept for the use of dispersant… and that was BP’s call and yes, they will probably be fines for the use of dispersant when its all done…

so i have to ask because i see where this conversation is going sadly… had McCain won, would it then be, “the McCain administration is trying to hide oil?” or would you then be saying, “well, they are doing a great job given the democrats screwed it up 8 years ago under clinton and thats why we have this spill today…”

in this country, there seems to be a HUGE failure in our people… we no longer vote for who is fit for the job, but we vote along party lines… and so does the people we put into elected offices… and thats not right… its supposed to be whoever represents you if your a potential voter voting on a candidate and if your an elected representative, your supposed to represent the people that voted you into office, not the party you belong to… a quick fix to this would be for people to run as independents and vote them all in… ;)

other problem is that everyone that runs for office is a lawyer… years ago in the early days of this country, that was pretty rare… today, to my knowledge, every congressman is a lawyer… hmmm, i wonder is this has anything to do with the problems we face these days? ;)

anyhow, enough politics… ;) i don’t claim to have all the answers and the truth is, no one does… and if anyone points the finger, they need to look at their hand carefully… your pointing one finger forward, but three fingers are pointing back at you… ;)

fact remains, we have a toxic situation in the gulf of mexico that is going to haunt us for a long time to come… the chain of events need to be investigated right down to did the crew have proper training, did they understand their position in the scheme of things and how their job affects others around them and more important, what was the condition of the rented equipment (the BOP) and other things on that job? it might be found that BP did the best they could and the rented drilling rig messed up… or it might be found that no one messed up at all and it was just an equipment failure that brought this upon us… and believe me, its already BIG TIME being investigated… we will have answers in time…


Comment by GreatDane on May 6, 2010 8:47 am


Aside from all the polictical faults or those at fault for being badly prepared, I feel there is a bigger question to be answered. That question being “Why” or “How” to handle all of this. I am a firm believer in God and the Holy Scriptures. Therefore I would like to suggest that anyone who wishes to truly understand the BIGGER meaning behind all of this, pick up your Bible, I am sure most have on, or if you don’t go online. I only ask that you be prayerful as you read about what I believe is the answer. Read Revelation chapter 8, all of it if you like, but namely verses 10 and 11. I feel there will be many you who “hear the truth in their Spirits” and will understand or already do understand, by the Spirit. For those of you who don’t understand, we will be praying for you to have the truth spoken to you in your spirits, a revelation if you will. To all God Bless and we still pray for Our Country, despite all of her faults. To all of those who lost family members and friends, we pray for your comfort.

Sincerely,

San Bocek


Comment by San Bocek on May 7, 2010 2:52 pm


Regarding Revelation chapter 8…It could very well be a partial fulfillment. I don’t believe it is THE fulfillment because it seems that these verses take place after the “great tribulation” (see Rev. 7:14) But I could be wrong. Also, there are other events that obviously take place before this sea of “blood” that haven’t happened yet.

I believe it’s one of God’s pre-warnings. Like how He handled Pharoah. He showed stronger and stronger signs as each one was resisted.


Comment by Jan on May 12, 2010 2:43 pm


to: Jan, San, me and everyone…

nothing against religion… but if it was not for jan, san, me and the rest of america driving cars and flipping light switches and running air conditioners, we would not have this issue out there… so i don’t see how we can say its revelations or god parting the red sea (the great sea of reeds it actually was)… its like a hurricane, we all live where it blows… and we know it can come get us one day, but when it does, people pray to help save people and worse yet, pray it will not hit “them” and go somewhere (hit some other poor fool i guess) else … i think the bible does cover this situation… i don’t recall the exact verse, but its about fools…

basically, if i do something i know will possibly hurt me, and it does… does that not make me a fool in the eyes of people? and if i pray for it to not happen knowing i put myself at risk or not to happen again, does that now make me a fool in the eyes of god?

so if i gas my car up and turn my AC down to 72 degrees and flip on a light switch or two and turn on the TV, do i not make a need for energy in a land where most of it comes from oil? and with that great need to flip on my lights and drive my car around and feel that cold AC and watch a little TV, do i not understand that it comes with risk at some point? now that we seem to have reached that “point” in time where something was bound to happen and did in fact happen, why would we pray for it to go away? that would make me a fool to believe that i could casually take such risks, but then when something happened look to god for help…


Comment by GreatDane on May 16, 2010 2:58 am


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