Environmental Protection

EPA: BP Must Find Less Toxic Dispersant to Manage Oil

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a directive requiring BP to identify and use a less toxic and more effective dispersant from the list of EPA authorized dispersants. Dispersants are a chemical used to break up oil into small droplets so that they are more easily degraded. To read the details, look for Dispersant Monitoring and Assessment Directive for Subsurface Dispersant on the Website.

The directive requires BP to identify a less toxic alternative - to be used both on the surface and under the water at the source of the oil leak - within 24 hours and to begin using the less toxic dispersant within 72 hours of submitting the alternative.

If BP is unable to identify available alternative dispersant products, BP must provide the Coast Guard and EPA with a detailed description of the alternative dispersants investigated and the reason they believe those products did not meet the required standards.

While the dispersant BP has been using is on the agency’s approved list, BP is using this dispersant in unprecedented volumes and, last week, began using it underwater at the source of the leak – a procedure that has never been tried before. Because of its use in unprecedented volumes and because much is unknown about the underwater use of dispersants, EPA wants to ensure BP is using the least toxic product authorized for use. We reserve the right to discontinue the use of this dispersant method if any negative impacts on the environment outweigh the benefits.

On May 15 EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard authorized BP to use dispersants underwater at the source of the Deepwater Horizon leak. As the dispersant is used underwater, BP is required to do constant, scientifically rigorous monitoring so EPA scientists may determine the dispersants’ effectiveness and impact on the environment, water and air quality, and human health. EPA is posting the information BP collects during the monitoring to ensure the public has access to this data.

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