Subsea Expo

Access. Connect. Grow.

BP Told to Switch to Less Toxic Dispersant in Oil Spill

20 May 2010

The US government Thursday ordered BP to use a less toxic dispersant on the expanding Gulf of Mexico oil slick, as fears mounted over the scale of the environmental disaster off the southern coast.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that while it "has not yet identified any significant effects on aquatic life" it was concerned about the "unprecedented volumes" of chemicals being used.

The EPA gave the British oil giant 24 hours to find a new dispersant and a further 72 hours to start using it to break up the slick.

The dispersant being used by BP on and under the water in the area of the ruptured Gulf oil well is currently on a US government approved list, but the EPA said it wants BP to use the "least toxic approved product."

The EPA also began posting data from the ongoing monitoring of underwater dispersants online and said it would be closely monitoring the results.

"EPA still reserves the right to stop BP?s use of dispersants underwater entirely if the science indicates that this dispersant method has negative impacts on the environment that outweighs its benefits," the agency said.

BP had been using two types of dispersants, called Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A, with 600,000 gallons used on the surface and 55,000 underwater.

On Friday, US officials approved the use of the controversial subsea chemical dispersants after a team of experts analyzed the results of three tests of their use.

"This was not a decision that was made lightly," said US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry.

The dispersant effort is meant to break down the oil so that, over time, the slick is reduced to smaller particles that biodegrade instead of being left as chunky, thick globs that can choke both wildlife and vegetation.

But environmentalists, scientists and fisherman have raised concerns that the dispersants could be creating a toxic soup in critical habitats and simply shifting the damage from the oil out of sight.