More toxic, less effective!

image copyright Art by Pir8t

The curious case of BP’s choice of dispersants

I usually write about happy, herbal and crafty news. But I am also a researcher and consultant who focuses on wellness and cancer prevention, so I feel compelled to write about what I find to be a disturbing discovery that affects the wellbeing of our water, the marine life in it, and quite possibly myriad numbers of humans at some point.

I have been greatly disturbed by the images of gushing oil and dead sea life throughout the Gulf of Mexico. And, earlier this week, when an EPA employee told me that the dispersants being used on the spill are highly questionable (very toxic and containing many unknown “proprietary” ingredients), I became even more upset. According to the EPA, as of May 18, 2010, “approximately 600,000 gallons of dispersant has been used on the surface and approximately 55,000 gallons of dispersant has been used subsurface, at the source of the spill.” So this was a lot of poison with unknown consequences being dumped into (and underneath) the already hurting waters.

image copyright NASA

So I was very happy to hear on May 20, 2010, that the EPA had issued an order to BP to stop the use of the very toxic dispersant, Corexit, and replace it with a less toxic, more effective dispersant. Except I couldn’t help wondering why they had allowed the use of this more toxic, less effective chemical to begin with, and for as long as they had. Then I heard something that provided a possible clue.

Last night on Anderson Cooper’s 360, journalist Ed Lavendera reported that 100,000 galls of Sea Brat-4, a less toxic, more effective chemical is sitting unused. Here is an excerpt from the CNN transcript:

LAVANDERA: Hundreds of containers are just sitting here in the Houston sun. To some it’s another example of the mismanagement of the oil spill. The containers are full of a dispersant called Sea Brat-4. Why is it sitting here and not in the ocean instead. No one really knows, especially says BP is on record saying it would use the stuff.

DOUG SUTTLES, COO, BP: We also have a second product called Sea Brat-4 which we’ll introduce into the process as well.

LAVANDERA: That’s what BP said almost a week ago, but we found the Sea Brat-4 sitting here. You’re looking at it, almost 100,000 gallons of the less toxic dispersant. Guess who ordered it? BP did on May 4th, almost three weeks ago.

John Sheffield is president of the company that makes it.

JOHN SHEFFIELD, PRESIDENT, ALABASTER CORPORATION: It’s ridiculous. I think something is intentionally stopping us from getting our product to the water.

LAVANDERA: EPA and coast guard officials say there’s nothing stopping them from using Sea Brat 4. Sheffield says he could be making 50,000 to 100,000 gallons a day. But a BP spokesman will only say the company had to use what was readily available and stockpiled and it has been asked to find add alternatives to Corexit. And getting a direct answer is hard for Congress to get as they grilled BP executive Lamar McKay this week about the issue.

This made me wonder if there was some connection between BP and the company producing Corexit, so I did some research. This is what I found:

  • On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig leased by BP sent oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • On April 30, 2010, BP released news that it had tested dispersants (tradename: Corexit) manufactured by Nalco Holding Co.
  • On May 1, 2010, Goldman Sachs recommended buying BP shares (source: MarketWatch)
  • Also on May 1, 2010, BP announced that it would use the Nalco dispersant on the oil spill.
  • Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, along with two other companies, owns Nalco (source: Nalco website).

So, piecing all this together, BP chose a less effective, more toxic dispersant, made by a company owned by Goldman Sachs. On the same day that BP announced they would be using this dispersant, Goldman Sachs recommended the purchase of BP stock. In other words, you wash my oily back, I’ll wash yours.

For updates on the EPA response to oil spill , you can visit their BP Spill website.

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7 thoughts on “More toxic, less effective!

  1. I had the same thoughts when I heard that the dispersant was less effective–then why use it? Oh, and it’s not BP’s backyard. We really need to lift liability limits on environmental tragedies like this one.

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    • Thank you for your comment. It seemed pretty odd, didn’t
      it? A couple of attorneys I’ve talked to have said that it may not be Constitutional to retroactively impose greater liability. However, there are several possible scenarios and nuances regarding individual situations that would make it so that it is not technically retroactive.

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      • Well, can’t you count liability from the day of passage? Since oil continues to gush out, at least the US could recoup part of its costs. And you could get the money for future blowouts.

        My parents always told me to clean up after myself. It seems it’s only corporations that don’t have to do this basic action we learn as kids.

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      • I know. It’s really unfair when everyone is held to different standards. And in this case, the mess is affecting the whole world’s living room. I am hoping that some clever attorneys will figure out a way to get around the current liability restrictions.

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