Corexit: An Oil Spill Solution Worse Than the Problem?
Yahoo News 9 hour ago
Every three to four weeks, a cycle of horror repeats itself across Steve Kolian’s face. First it becomes itchy. Then the bumps appear. Then a raw, irritating redness sets in before the skin peels away in patches. Finally, it all disappears for a while.
Other parts of his body, however, seem to be in perpetual disrepair. Dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, bloody stools and cognitive issues surface intermittently, painful reminders of the toxic assault he and untold others endured following the April 2010 explosion on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
It reminded me of Dante's Inferno. The fumes were choking folks along the coast. Then you add the Corexit, and communities felt their lives became a laboratory, only they were the living experiment.
Kolian, 51, is convinced that his illnesses were triggered by a chemical product designed to disperse petroleum in water, a substance euphemistically marketed as “Corexit.” Now, three years after the disaster that left some 210 million gallons of Louisiana Crude and 1.8 million gallons of dispersant in the Gulf of Mexico, a growing body of evidence supports his contentions.
Corexit was, in fact, on the the EPA's list of acceptable dispersants at the time of the spill; furthermore, ALL dispersants have some degree of negative impact on the environment if used in significant quantities -- there is no such thing as a "environmentally-safe" dispersant. The issue is this: do you want to do all you can to disperse the oil at sea or let it all roll up on the beaches? OBTW: I believe significant amounts of diesel fuel was used along with Corexit.
Send that story to 60 Minutes instead of posting it here. It has no bearing on BP's stock performance. There is no litigation, and will be no litigation, against BP over the use of Corexit. Judge Barbier dismissed the claims last year (brought against the manufacturer, not BP).
Total non-issue story, IMO.
Feds: your rig is burning, we will cool it off.
BP: But we don't own that equipment
Feds: We sank the rig, now your oil is soiling the beaches, fix it
BP: Thanks, that will make this problem 10 times harder to fix.
Feds: Too bad, now what is your plan?
BP: We can mobilize Dutch skimmers and reduce the slick by a huge amount
Feds: Sorry, re-flagging foreign vessels is complicated. Plus its not in your spill contingency.
BP: We can give every shrimp boat a #$%$ little oil skimmer and keep them busy. And try to build some funnels and stuff.
Feds: That's something we like, but do more
BP: There are dispersant chemicals in the spill contingency approved by the EPA, but they have never been used on such a large scale.
Feds: EPA? Those guys are smart so that is what we want you to do.
BP: OK, if you say so. We talked to Nalco and will buy up the worlds supply if that is what you want. How do we actually apply this stuff over such a large area?
Feds: We don't know either, nobody has ever face this before. Just git 'er done. And fast cause its becoming an embarrassment.
BP: Anything else?
Feds: If this doesn't work then its your butt in a sling.
Kolian is founder of the nonprofit group EcoRigs, whose volunteer scientists and divers seek to preserve offshore oil and gas platforms after production stops. The superstructures can be maintained not only as artificial reefs, but also producers of solar, wind, wave and tidal energy.
After the Deepwater Horizon blowout, EcoRigs divers were asked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to gather water samples from the Gulf, “in exchange for test results and presumable compensation,” Kolian told TakePart in an exclusive interview.
The group’s first dive was on May 7, 2010, when they took samples at the surface and subsurface, and collected marine life, including corals, sponges, and sea squirts, growing on platforms. “NOAA assured us it was perfectly safe” to dive where crude oil had been treated with dispersants, Kolian said. “But we quickly learned that was false.”
His harrowing story, and those of many others, has been compiled into a raft of damning affidavits and interview collected by the whistleblower group Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).
Taken together, the statements paint a grim picture of corporate deceit and governmental acquiescence, which could foretell a legacy of chronic illness and premature death among those exposed to the blood-cell rupturing properties of Corexit. Meanwhile, the impact of the dispersant on the Gulf’s environment and marine life is gradually coming to light, as toxins in the product, and the oil it emulsified, make their way up the food chain.
They say that the cover-up is often worse than the crime; but in this case, the solution may be worse than the problem.
Corexit is a product line of dispersants that emulsify crude oil into miniscule droplets that are heavier than water and tend to sink into the ocean. The idea is to prevent oil slicks from reaching shorelines, estuaries, and other coastal waterways, with their fragile and sometimes threatened ecosystems.
Once oil is treated, typically by aerial spraying, the slick breaks down and quickly spreads across the surface and down the water column, as tiny beads of goo begin to sink. Wave action and wind turbulence degrade the oil further, though evaporation concentrates the toxins left behind, especially dangerous compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs.
Soon after the Deepwater blowout, BP snatched up one-third of the world supply of dispersants, namely Corexit EC9500 and Corexit EC9527, according to The New York Times. Of the two, Corexit EC9527 is more toxic. Its main component, 2-butoxyethanol, has been identified as one of the agents that caused liver, kidney, lung, nervous system, and blood disorders among cleanup crews in Alaska following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. According to media reports, nearly all of the individuals in those crews have died, with the average age of death around 50. Herring fisheries in the area were decimated, and other marine species are still in stages of recovery.
Corexit 9527 is toxic to blood and organs. “WARNING: Eye and skin irritant,” reads a safety data sheet on the Nalco website. “Repeated or excessive exposure to butoxyethanol may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver. Harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin, and if swallowed. Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing. Do not take internally. Use with adequate ventilation. Wear suitable protective clothing.” In case of accidental release, handlers should “restrict access to area as appropriate until clean-up operations are complete.”
Human health hazards are “acute,” according to the safety data sheet, and potential toxicological impact is “high.” But that is only for people who come into unprotected contact with it. That’s why Nalco claims that, “based on our recommended product application and personal protective equipment, the potential human exposure is: Low.”