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Environment: New study shows dispersant makes oil up to 52 times more toxic to Gulf of Mexico microorganisms

Small grazers at the base of the food chain most directly affected

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Followup studies after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill call into question the extensive use of chemical dispersants. Photo courtesy NOAA.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The massive amounts of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig exploded was devastating to marine life, but the dispersant used in the aftermath to try and break down the oil slicks may have been even worse for some species, according to new research done by scientists with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Based on laboratory toxicity tests, the study found that the oil-dispersant mix was up to 52 times more toxic to tiny rotifers, microscopic grazers at the base of the Gulf’s food chain.

The researchers tested a mix oil from the spill and Corexit, the dispersant required by the Environmental Protection Agency for clean up, on five strains of rotifers. Rotifers have long been used by ecotoxicologists to assess toxicity in marine waters because of their fast response time, ease of use in tests and sensitivity to toxicants. Continue reading

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Environment: Some Gulf of Mexico beaches are still contaminated with a toxic sludge of oil and dispersant

Research show that carcinogenic oil-related PAH compounds are easily absorbed through skin

A beach along Cape San Blas, Florida, where researchers sampled the swash zone for contaminated weathered tar product mixed with dispersant. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

New research in Florida shows contaminated oil product accumulating in the swash zone of Gulf beaches. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Two years after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, beaches along the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline are far from being clean, says University of South Florida researcher James “Rip” Kirby, who recently documented accumulations of remnant oil with “scary high” concentrations of carcinogenic oil-related compounds. Download the full report or a summary at the Surfrider website.

In fact, the weathered tar product from crude oil dispersed with Corexit were found to have PAH concentrations consistently in excess of limits set to identify danger to life and health — IDHL limits, as defined by NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration.

In all, 32 sites were sampled; only three were free of PAH contamination. Samples at 26 of the sites exceeded the IDHL limits. Testing was done at beaches between Waveland, Miss. and Cape San Blas, Fla. Continue reading

EPA faces lawsuit over dispersant use in Gulf oil spill

Coast Guard vessels try to extinguish the burning Deepwater Horizon drilling rig. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD.

Environmental group wants feds to study and disclose impacts of dispersants, as marine biologists continue to document an unusually high number of dead whales and dolphins in the northern Gulf of Mexico

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — One year after the deadly Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the EPA is facing a potential lawsuit over the widespread use of chemical oil dispersants.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed an official notice of its intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for authorizing the use of the dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species or their habitats.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the EPA must pre-approve the use of chemical dispersants in the event of an oil spill, but has not taken steps to ensure that the use of these chemicals will not jeopardize endangered wildlife. The Center’s notice requests that the agency immediately study the effects of dispersants on endangered and threatened species such as sea turtles, endangered whales, piping plovers and corals.

“The Gulf of Mexico disaster was a wake-up call about the inadequacy of current oil-spill response technology,” said Deirdre McDonnell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Before the next spill happens, the government needs to ensure that these dispersants don’t do more harm than good to threatened and endangered species.” Continue reading

Oil spill: More questions about dispersant use

A fishing boat skims oil from the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Untold quantities of oil have mixed with the water and will never be recovered from the Gulf. PHOTO COURTESY THE U.S. COAST GUARD.

More than 100 scientists release consensus statement on long-term impacts of Corexit, claiming the government is withholding key data from public but giving it to BP

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — More than a 100 scientists have joined together to try and draw attention to the potential environmental impacts from the 2 million gallons of oil dispersant that have been used in the Gulf of Mexico.

The researchers said the combination of the dispersant and the oil is likely to kill marine life across large swaths of ocean, and that it’s potential impacts to human health can’t be assessed accurately because not all the ingredients are known. They also accused the EPA and NOAA of being slow to test for the impacts of the dispersant, and even slower to release the results to the public. Continue reading

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