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Nancy Chuda

Nancy Chuda

Posted: June 21, 2010 10:36 AM

Does EPA Mean Business As Usual? Is It Really Safe to Go Back in the Water?

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Last week, when BP CEO Tony Hayward testified before Congress, many expected to hear him apologize for the disaster his company has caused. First and foremost, the loss of lives. Instead, GOP Congressman Joe Barton was the one saying he was sorry -- to BP.

In his opening statement, Barton, the top Republican on the committee overseeing the oil spill and its aftermath, delivered a personal apology to the oil giant. He said the $20 billion fund that President Obama directed BP to establish to provide relief to the victims of the oil disaster was a "tragedy in the first proportion."

At the stake of this tragedy lies the solution. Clean energy. Not political gerrymandering.

It's not about a Republican or Democrat trying to get re-elected. It's about making the people of the gulf "whole again."

But still, there are many questions left unanswered. And for the record, Mr. Hayward did an inappropriate job with exacting legal counsel to avoid the answers.

The questions Laurie David posed in her article, "What I Don't Understand," attempts to get down to the core.

"Why are we giving oil companies a free pass to drill a mile below the ocean's surface, where the pressure is so intense it causes oil to shoot out like a rocket, when we don't know how to fix major leaks? This spill stains the entire industry so why aren't other oil companies like Exxon Mobil using their record profits to help stop this catastrophe? Or to develop cutting-edge ways to clean up oil spills when they inevitably happen? And why are Valero and other Texas oil giants paying millions to try to dismantle California's clean energy policies rather than putting money towards long-term clean energy solutions?"

BP cannot ignore 60 thousand barrels of oil a day. There is no apology. No executive on record will ever be able to undo or replace lives and livelihoods that have been taken. This is the worst environmental disaster of the 21st century.

Laurie David was responsible for bringing the subject of global warming to villages all across the world. Her work, along with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, helped us realize that "we can't afford to let global warming continue unabated. In 2005, Katrina proved that "climate change is happening, and the impacts are only going to get worse."

"What will happen when two catastrophes in one region meet, with this year's predicted horrible hurricane season soon hitting oily waters?"

This is the wake-up call. We must move towards clean renewable energy that is safer for human and animal survival. However, the problems which could be abated using natural solutions like hair booms, have been replaced with chemical dispersants -- namely, Corexit.

LuxEco Living editorial assistant, Alanna Brown reported that, "We first learned about Corexit in 1989, when Nalco engineered it for cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound. In this video, while workers claim the use of Corexit to be a success, one can't help but notice the biohazard suits and masks they wear to avoid contact with it. So basically, what we have now, in 2010, being dumped into our Gulf by the tens of thousands of gallons is a chemical not to be touched or inhaled. According to the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, the use of Corexit during the Exxon Valdez oil spill caused "respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders" in people.

It gets worse, here is an EPA analysis of what over 800,000 gallons of Corexit consists of:

X. ANALYSIS FOR HEAVY METALS, CYANIDE, AND CHLORINATED HYDROCARBONS

Compound/Concentration (ppm)

Arsenic < 0.005

Cadmium < 0.01

Chromium < 1.0

Copper < 0.2

Lead < 0.1

Mercury < 0.003

Nicke < 0.1

Zinc 0.1

Cyanide < 0.01

Chlorinated < 0.01

"This means that the one-thousandth percent concentration of arsenic, the one-tenth percent concentration of lead, the one-hundredth percent concentration of cyanide, and all the other deadly compounds listed, have been dumped into our sea 800,000 times over.

Not a pretty picture. Worse than the tar coated marine mammals, birds and fish we have been seeing on AP and UPI.

WARNING! The Safety Data Sheet for Corexit 9500 states, "Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing. Do not take internally. Avoid breathing vapor. Use with adequate ventilation. In case of contact with eyes, rinse immediately with plenty of water and seek medical advice. After contact with skin, wash immediately with plenty of soap and water." It goes on to give detailed first aid measures if any of these warnings are not properly observed. However, the most haunting of all is one simple statement under the Environmental Precautions heading. It reads plainly, "Do not contaminate surface water."

Dr. William Sawyer presented a worst-case analysis of the risks associated with Corexit. He claims that Corexit is known as deodorized kerosene, "a substance with health risks to humans as well as sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles, birds, and any species that need to surface for air exchanges." The article also discusses why these dispersants bare the name. It is because, simply, the chemicals cause the oil to form globules and then those globules disperse via wind and wave action. "So instead of having the oil collect at the surface, dispersed droplets of oil can spread more quickly and in more directions. This means the droplets linger longer in the water, collecting on the seabed and harming the ecosystem offshore."

The next issue of concern is the affect Corexit has had so far on human life. A CBS news clip informs us that cleanup workers with exposure to dispersants on the Deepwater Horizon spill have already fallen ill. On May 7, 7 workers were rushed to the Jefferson Parish emergency room and as of June 7, there were already 75 people complaining of flu-like respiratory symptoms. They attribute this to the fact that many workers wore little to no protective gear when the cleanup first began. Workers who have since worn the proper gear have not reported illness. However, the number of injured is predicted to increase."

Alanna Brown points out that Corexit has a shelf-life. "How will the injured receive accurate medical care when 10-30% of the compounds that structure the chemical are unknown? By reviewing the previously mentioned manufacturer's safety data sheet, we find the main components to be 2-butoxyethanol, organic sulfonic acid, and a small amount of propylene glycol. However Nalco will not release that crucial 10-30% of its proprietary makeup due to unwanted industry competition. Despite this, Wired Science briefs us on just one such competitor: Dispersit. This dispersant was approved 10 years ago by the EPA, and is being touted as "twice as good at breaking down South Louisiana crude oil in lab comparisons...[and] half as toxic."

What makes this issue hair raising is what Alanna (and others conclude.)

"Most would agree, the powers-that-be don't have the best interest of us or our eco-system at heart. But they can't turn off our voices; those of us who care have the ability to speak out on behalf of the environment. Here are ways you can help."

Don't let any big oil giant fool you ... there are other methods of cleaning up this oil spill gusher that doesn't further degrade the environment with toxic chemicals. In my next post, I will highlight some of the most visionary people who are inspiring a grassroots network and deploying non-toxic, renewable and environmentally-sustainable methods for oil clean-up.

Originally posted on LuxEcoLiving.com

 

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