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EPA Orders BP to Use Less-Toxic Oil Dispersant

coast guard EPA Orders BP to Use Less Toxic Oil Dispersant

The Environmental Protection Agency ordered British Petroleum to change the type of dispersant the company is using to keep oil from reaching American shores.

The EPA gave the company 72 hours to switch to a less toxic chemical for use in breaking up oil slicks. Persistent questions about the toxicity of Corexit 9500 have plagued BP over the last several weeks. But the company continued to purchase and use the chemical.

On May 5, Wired Science reported on EPA data showing that a competitive product, U.S. Polychemical’s Dispersit, appeared to be less toxic and perform better. Corexit is manufactured by Nalco, which has senior management from the major oil companies.

“The reality is, we blow them out of the water. But Corexit is the Exxon product, the 800-pound gorilla,” U.S. Polychemical’s Bruce Gebhardt told Wired Science two days later. “We’ve never been able to move off the shelves. We were never successful in getting them to switch stockpiles. The Coast Guard expressed interest, but it’s a big expense, and you don’t do it unless you’re in pain. Now they’re in pain.”

Now, while BP has not announced how it will comply with the EPA order, U.S. Polychemical told The New York Times it had “received a large order from BP” for Dispersit and could ramp up production to 60,000 gallons a day.

Update 5/21, 2:14 PM EST: U.S. Polychemical’s Bruce Gebhardt contacted Wired Science indicating that his company had not received any orders from BP. “Everything is on hold as far as I know. Right now we have no information,” Gebhardt said. “We’re just waiting on BP.” Gebhardt said that he did not know who had given the Times the erroneous information. As of this writing, the Times story remains unchanged.


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