"The people must come together now to stop this nightmare."

The EPA’s Big Lie on the Gulf Coast

By Elizabeth Cook

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must be feeling worried. Rather than undertake new testing on Corexit, the dispersant dumped in the Gulf in huge quanities (and still being used according to eye witness reports),  the recent EPA report in its Science Matters Newsletter issue on May 1st, 2012 simply  reaffirms EPA reports from 2010 that the Corexit is “practically nontoxic”, and “slightly toxic”.  Why release a “report” that redundantly suggests the EPA’s testing in 2010 was right all along, without additional testing? Could it be that internally the EPA continues to feel the heat and grapple with their decisions to allow the widespread use of the Corexit dispersants?  Does the EPA feel the heat because health effects were included in the plaintiff’s settlement with BP, announced in March, 2012? The EPA must know that Corexit is still being used in the Gulf, as documented by numerous eye witnesses. Are they feeling that this “secret” could soon become a national issue?

Whatever their reason for such a non-report that offers no new information on Corexit, this demands a response from all concerned and free thinking people.  This report confirms what many have characterized as the flawed science that was used to justify the use of Corexit to begin with, a flawed science that utilizes protocols for testing that many independent scientists are critical of. 

The EPA’s report was released  two weeks before another report issued by a group of activists in Alabama, who had taken a documentary film crew out on the water near Perdido, Alabama, Wednesday, May 16th. Members of the the Alabama Oil Spill Coalition, and the documentary film crew, came upon what appeared to be a wave of dispersant washing into Arnica Bay. Numerous photographs were taken and an incident report was filed with the National Response Center, Incident report #1011719.
One participant in that boat excursion was treated by a local doctor for chemical exposure. Many of the participants report various symptoms:  persistent headaches, burning eyes, noses running, throat irritation. “Let’s just say it wasn’t the normal salt air” they were smelling, according to one participant. One person said she smelled something akin to “burnt crayons”.

Coincidentally, just days before, on May 5th, 2012, a large tar mat was disturbed by Army Corps of Engineers dredging in Perdido Pass. If, just if dispersants were applied to that large and spreading sheen from that oil mat, the dispersants could have drifted further inland into Arnica Bay, via Perdido Bay.

It was Susan Aarde, writing for nationofchange.org that first alerted the Gulf coast to the EPA’s new “report” on Corexit.  As Aarde points out, this EPA “report” flies in the face of the EPA’s own pre-spill data. Even Nalco’s own data sheet on Corexit 9500 recommends face filters, the size and type depending on the amount used. There were many reports from the Gulf of Vessel Of Opportunity Workers being refused the right to wear face filters. Marine toxicologist Susan Shaw said this about Corexit:

Though all dispersants are potentially dangerous when applied in such volumes, Corexit is particularly toxic. It contains petroleum solvents and a chemical that, when ingested, ruptures red blood cells and causes internal bleeding. It is also bioaccumulative, meaning its concentration intensifies as it moves up the food chain.

As Grist writerTom Phillpot pointed out early on in an article on May 6th, 2010, quoting the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on the two types of Corexit used in the Gulf, Corexit 9500 has the potential to bioaccumulate in the environment.  The two types of Corexit used in the Gulf, 9500 and 9527A, have not been tested for their toxicity by Nalco. In addition, the MSDS indicate the substances  are deadly to marine, and potentially human life.

Phillpot says:

So, what’s in the stuff? According to their data sheets, both 9500 and 9527 are composed of three potentially hazardous substances. They share two in common, organic sulfonic acid salt and propylene glycol. In addition to those two, Corexit 9500 contains something called “Distillates, petroleum, hydrotreated light,” while Corexit 9527 contains 2-Butoxyethanol. Frustratingly, the sheets don’t give exact information about how much of the substances are in the dispersants; instead they give ranges as a percentage of weight. For example, Corexit 9500 can be composed of anywhere from 10 to 30 percent petroleum distillates, while 2-Butoxyethanol makes up anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of 9527.

This new “report” by the EPA defies the logic that has been established on the Gulf coast.  Health effects of the Corexit and Oil have been recognized and accepted by BP within the plaintiff’s settlement, something that did not occur, but should have, in the settlement of Exxon Valdez survivors. Essentially, the EPA has just told a big lie. It is clear that this report could potentially be used by BP, the EPA and apparently the U.S. Coast Guard to justify the continued use of Corexit on the northern Gulf waters.

You might be asking, why is Corexit still being used on Gulf waters? It was confirmed  on November 2, 2011, that a wave of oil that hit Horn Island off the coast of Mississippi was actually fresh oil from the Macondo well. Attorney Stuart Smith had the oil tested, and it was confirmed to be fresh oil. In addition, the non-profit preservation group On Wings of Care had photographed the Macondo well sight in August, 2011, and pictures reveal that oil continues to leak from the site.

We don’t know how much oil continues to seep from this “capped” well, and we don’t necessarily know why. It’s not a question that is being openly discussed by the state or the federal government.
NOAA had long since revised its estimates of how much oil is no longer in the Gulf in the wake of “recovery” efforts. Initially, in August of 2010, NOAA released the preposterous report on August 4th, 2010 that 50% of the oil was gone, due to evaporation, oil eating bacteria, skimming, burning, booming and recovery of the oil. Intelligent minds everywhere scoffed at this notion that a “spill” nearly 20 times the size of the Exxon Valdez had vanished after just 4 months. It took just two weeks for  the same NOAA official, Bill Lehr, to retract the earlier report, and completely reverse course: 75% of the “spilled” oil remains in the Gulf, he said August 19th, 2010, in a report to Congress.

That 75% of oil that leaked during the disaster, before the capping of the well, continues to rise, sometimes due to heating, at times stirred by manmade activity as in the recent dredging incident in Perdido Bay.

As Riki Ott determined in January of 2011, essentially the Gulf states signed away their rights when it comes to the spraying of Corexit in state waters.

It turns out that dispersants are not -- and never were -- explicitly banned within three miles of the coast or in less than ten meters of water (the "nearshore environment") as federal officials with the USCG, EPA, NOAA, and others staunchly maintained. The Coast Guard and states can approve dispersant use in the nearshore environment on a case-by-case basis across the Gulf if the incident commander decides the toxic chemicals were "expected to prevent or minimize substantial threat to the public health or welfare, or to mitigate or prevent environmental damage" -- a statement that appears in both of the official Regional Response Team dispersant policies. In fact, neither of the policies for Region IV (Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida) or Region VI (Louisiana) have any areas where dispersant use is expressly banned. Louisiana even has an expedited process for requests to spray dispersants in the nearshore environment.
Now one has to wonder about the arrogance of the EPA in releasing such a report. It is a kind of in your face challenge to all those families and individuals that have become ill on the coast due to exposure to the Corexit that makes the oil more toxic, not less. Is it the EPA’s Waterloo moment? We all have realized how much of a careerist Lisa Jackson is, willing to sacrifice her own people on the Gulf coast to the political expediency’s of the Obama administrations’ desire to remain friendly to industry. But this kind of report is verging on scandal. What is needed is for the activist community on the Gulf coast to rouse themselves, and push this demented carriage over the cliff. We need the help of the nation on this as well. Help send Lisa Jackson packing, and highlight for the world to see the willingness of our political class to collude with the corporate world to hide the real life damages they inflict on the lives of people with their poisonous products, such as Corexit.

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