Even BP-Funded Scientists Find that the Use of Corexit Dispersant in the Gulf Made Things Worse … but BP Still Tries to Blame Others for Destruction

As the Herald Tribune notes, even BP-funded scientists are finding that dispersant made things worse:

BP succeeded in sinking the oil from its blown well out of sight — and keeping much of it away from beaches and marshes last year — by dousing the crude with nearly 2 million gallons of toxic chemicals. But the impact on the ecosystem as a whole may have been more damaging than the oil alone.

The combination of oil and Corexit, the chemical BP used to dissolve the slick, is more toxic to tiny plants and animals than the oil in most cases, according to preliminary research by several Florida scientists. And the chemicals may not have broken down the oil as well as expected.

Scientists reported some of their early findings last week at a Florida Institute of Oceanography conference at the University of Central Florida. The researchers were funded a year ago through a $10 million BP grant.

There is anecdotal evidence that dispersant was still being applied many months after BP and the government said spraying had stopped. See this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.

In related news:

  • The Sarasota Herald Tribune notes:
A mixture of oil and dead organic particles may still be falling to the deep bottom of the northern Gulf of Mexico, potentially harming the base of a food web that supports all kinds of sea life, from giant whales and blue-fin tuna to grouper and snapper.

In water thousands of feet deep, scientists have discovered a “dirty blizzard” that deposited more than three inches oil mixed with decayed plant and animal material near the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout last year.

A quarter to half of the oil that spewed from the blown wellhead – between 186 million to 227 million gallons – is still unaccounted for and thought to be lingering in the deep sea, said Benjamin Flower, a geological oceanographer with the University of South Florida.

***

Traces of oil were found in the top layer of the sediments, as well as single-celled plants and animals, some of which were deformed.

Oily sediments were also found near the Desoto Canyon, a prime fishing area. Near the same area, on the West Florida Slope, other toxic effects on the bottom of the food web have been observed.

Damage to the small plants and animals that make up the bottom of the food web can ripple through the ecosystem because it removes important food sources for larger fish.

Among some of the other observations made by scientists so far:

• In lab research on conch, shrimp and oysters, the combination of crude and Corexit – the toxic chemical BP used to dissolve the oil – is more toxic than oil alone.

• Oil remains buried in the sand of Panhandle beaches, disrupting microscopic life in the sand and also posing a threat to shorebirds and the offspring of sea turtles.

• Pregnant dolphins in the northern Gulf may have been unable to find sufficient food following the oil spill, a potential factor in the unusual die-off of infant and neonatal dolphins earlier this year.

• Cancer-causing chemicals from the crude, such as benzene and toluene, may still be lingering in the ecosystem because they do not degrade easily.

  • And even the reports of large numbers of sick fish in Gulf are so widespread that even NOAA is talking about it. As the Pensacola News Journal reports:
For the first time [NOAA is] warning anglers that some fish are sick and may pose health problems if handled or eaten raw.The agency is telling anglers to toss fish that have lesions, fin rot or discolored skin back into the Gulf and to be careful about handling them. This warning comes just one week before the June 1 opening of recreational red snapper season.

NOAA … acknowledged that fishermen and scientists have recently reported and documented lesions on fish they are catching in federal waters off Alabama.

***

The reports of sick fish correlate with areas most impacted by the BP oil spill, said Jim Cowan Jr., the Louisiana State University Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences scientist who is at the center of the sick fish studies off the Alabama coast.

***

“I’m very worried because I’ve talked to both commercial and recreational fishermen who have been in the business 30 to 40 years and no one has seen anything like this,” he said.

***

Commercial fisherman Donnie Waters has been fishing the Gulf since 1974. He was shocked to learn that the sick fish he’s been catching and sending to scientists for study are infected with the dangerous bacteria.”I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before,” he said. “I’m deeply concerned about the long-term impact of the fishery of the eastern Gulf.”

Of course, BP isn’t accepting blame for any of the damage. As Plaintiff’s attorney Stuart Smith notes:

The BP-government spin machine belched back into gear last week – and the intent, as it has been since Day One, is to dupe the world into believing that a 200-million-gallon oil spill has minimal impact on the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s what the spin masters would have us believe. So when record numbers of dead and “stranded” sea turtles started washing ashore across the Gulf Coast, the BP-government PR team went looking for someone or something to deflect attention from the 200 million gallons of crude and 2 million gallons of toxic dispersant that was pumped into the water over nearly 3 months.

So now we are being subjected to the same sort of attempt at damage control that we saw when all the dead dolphins came ashore not long ago. Is anybody else starting to see a pattern here? The spill has broken the back of the Gulf ecosystem, and now we’re dealing with the fallout.

In the case of the turtles as it was with the dolphins, the BP-government objective is to divert attention away from last year’s massive oil spill. So who or what to blame? What killed or stranded the 600 sea turtles – six times the annual average – that washed ashore in 2010 during the height of the BP spill? How do the damage-control wizards explain why, already this year, 563 sea turtles have been stranded in just four Gulf states?

Well, here’s what the spin maestros – backed by NOAA scientists – came up with: The shrimpers did it.

That’s what they’d have us believe. The shrimpers killed hundreds and hundreds of sea turtles – most of them endangered Kemp’s ripleys – with their big nets (and their devastated lives). It wasn’t the 200 million gallons of oil, it was the shrimpers.

***

Despite the far-fetched nature of the accusation, the BP-government spinners came out firing – implying that the sharp spike in turtle deaths is due entirely to the fact that shrimpers aren’t using their regulation-mandated “turtle excluder devices.” TEDs, as they’re called, are designed to keep sea turtles like Kemp’s ripleys out of shrimpers’ gear and nets.

“This is a serious problem,” said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA’s national sea turtle coordinator. But Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle, who’s also a shrimper, disagrees: “The only turtles that are being destroyed are the turtles in the oil spill.”

Did I mention that the official shrimp season just opened last week? And I should mention it opened to reports of small catches, and the shrimp that are being caught are much smaller than usual.

Click here to see photos.

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