In NY Times Op-Ed, Not One Drop Author Riki Ott Responds to BP Oil Spill
Posted May 11 2010 7:49am
The Deepwater Horizon rig continues to spill an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil into the Gulf Coast every day. So far, BP’s efforts to cap it have failed. The effects of this devastating environmental catastrophe will no doubt be felt for decades to come. Is there anything we can do to reduce its impact?
ONE of the oil industry’s favorite tools in fighting oil spills is chemical dispersants indeed, over 300,000 gallons have been used so far in the Gulf. But as anyone who studied high school chemistry knows, like dissolves like: crude oil responds only to oil-based solvents, which are extremely toxic.
The first dispersants, released in the late 1960s, were quickly shelved because they turned out to harm wildlife more than crude oil did. Drums of Corexit 9527, a dispersant used to clean up the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, came with warning labels: “prevent liquid from entering sewers, watercourses or low areas.” Little has changed in 20 years. Even worse, spraying dispersants in the Gulf in an attempt to minimize the oil’s damage to the coast would kill shrimp eggs and larvae and young fish in the open water. They can linger in the water for decades, especially when used in deep water, where low temperatures can inhibit biodegradation. Dispersants may sound like a good idea, but they’re bad news, and their use should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. RIKI OTT, marine toxicologist and author of “Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill”