August 1st, 2010
02:23 AM ET

Documents: Dispersants used excessively in Gulf

New documents released by a congressional subcommittee indicate that Coast Guard officials allowed BP to use excessive amounts of chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP used the chemicals to break up oil after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion sent millions of gallons of crude gushing into the Gulf.

Despite a federal directive restricting their use, the Coast Guard routinely granted exemptions, said Rep. Edward J. Markey, chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

"BP carpet bombed the ocean with these chemicals, and the Coast Guard allowed them to do it," Markey said in a statement Saturday. "After we discovered how toxic these chemicals really are, they had no business being spread across the Gulf in this manner."

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Filed under: BP • Gulf Coast Oil Spill
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. 3-6-9

    I think it is funny that some people think that because they don't see any oil slicks, there is no oil. They put dispersants (better called surfactants) into the oil so the oil which naturally is not dissolvable in water would be dissolved–so we wouldn't see it. Another thing is that there is no difference to the naked eye between a cup of fresh water with no salt in it and a cup with salt dissolved in it. That does not mean that there is no salt in the cup with the salt dissolved in it. For the same reason, even if we don't see the oil, that does not mean it is not there. And when oil is treated with surfactants, it will not necessarily float on top because, after "dispersant" treatment, it will dissolve just like the salt does in water. I truly think the whole "dispersant" deal was just a ploy to hide the true amount of oil and damage to the gulf by BP.

    August 1, 2010 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
    • GloriaSeattle

      You're spot on! We can't see carbon monoxide but it's there...the oil is just broken up and in the sea water. Although they have a "secret recipe" to these dispersants and won't give out the ingredients, I was told they were the equivelant of antifreeze. If that is's chilling to think of the consequences. It's sad to think our government allowed this to happen, or any of it for that matter. Our tax dollars are truly wasted on pocket lining crooks!

      August 1, 2010 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |

      the BIGGEST SCOOP EVER about BP is that they was able to STOP the oil spill in the EARLY DAYS of May but haven't done that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      how much BP should refund to Gulf's States???
      well, it very much depends also from this test:

      August 1, 2010 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      There is no oil. The gulf is fine again folks. BP said so. They just released some pictures of penguins, walruses and orcas frolicking in the clean waters of the Gulf of Mexico...Yeah!

      Uhh...wait, penguins? Oh geez, did BP photoshop again?

      FUNNY, check it out.

      August 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • tony

      All part of "thier" plan I see! Nothing takes one by surprise when he knows what time it is.

      August 4, 2010 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. Moe NY

    Get real...anyone with half a brain knew this, it just comes down to the oil or the dispersants...which one is worse...which one does the most damage? My opinion, is both....give time. Let's face it America, our Gulf Coast is dead, and if this drilling keeps up, it is only a matter of time when all our gulfs, oceans, waterways are dead also...put any spin on it you want to, but in the end our waterways are going the way of the Gulf, unless this sickness (drilling) is stopped once and for all!

    August 1, 2010 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      I agree with you completely !! But what's sad is our government officials are all paid off by the oil companies and they sell the future generations down the river...

      August 1, 2010 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark Thompson

      The mixture is more toxic – simply listen to the marine eco-toxicologists who study this kind of thing. You can find an excellent video on TED where Susan Shaw talks about this:

      "For vulnerable species such as phytoplankton, corals and small fish, the combined effects of Corexit and dispersed oil can be greater and last longer than the effects of oil alone."

      I'm an ecologist and study herbicide impacts on amphibians and wetlands. I don't study marine ecosystems, but my ecological training tells me that there is no trade-off here other than one of a PR campaign that has been far from honest since the beginning. You don't have to be an ecologist to see what is going on here.

      August 1, 2010 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  3. 1-2-3-4

    I could not agree more with you soundoff. Its a pretty scary thing to look at, but the real question is how toxic those dispersants become once dissolved with oil into the Gulf of Mexico. What are these going to do to the water in the long term?

    August 1, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. e-man

    The dispersants allow the oil to break up into small particles, allowing bacteria to consume the oil more readily. A little know fact is that naturally occuring bacteria usually clean up 50% of all oil spills within 2 months. Dispersants speed that process up significantly. The more oil the bacteria consume, the more they reproduce, allowing more oil to be consumed in a shorter period of time Additionally, breaking up these slicks help sea birds and oother animals from becoming coated and dying. I protects the beaches and wetlands from slicks that cause irreparable harm. If you think we could skim all the oil faster that the bacteria can consume it, you're fooling yourself.

    The Obama administration has made it clear that they are holding BP responsible and that they must clear everything they do through the government. If you have a problem with dispersants, then tell it to the President.

    August 1, 2010 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon F

      Then we are going to have a whole lot of oil-eating bacteria being cultured in the Gulf! Any time you feed bacteria they grow and multiply – quite a bit in fact. Now we are talking hundreds of millions of gallons of oil here – only a minor fraction of which has been recovered. The oil is now sinking to great depths in micro-droplets and is in near freezing water at incredible pressure. It will hang around there for quite some time. The bottom line to all of this is that we don't know what the bacteria will do – nor do we know what will happen in this scenario. Not only has it never happened before – it has never happened to such an extent nor has it ever been tested before.

      This is one big experiment which could backfire on us even worse than it already has.

      August 1, 2010 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • 3-6-9

      Yeah, but the bacteria eat oil, not Corexit surfactant. Maybe we eat chicken, but we don't eat chicken with detergent.

      August 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Charles Nesbit

    OK ! The whole world KNOWS it was/remains a catastrophy of incalculable proportions !! So where are the queues lining up to buy alternative fuel vehicles ?? It´s not BP, nor corrupt officials who are responsible for this calamity, it is us, the Happy Motoring Public, cheerfully buying yet another generation SUV, or whatever! So every time you turn that ignition switch, think of the Gulf...and most particularly the ´gulf´between complaining and acting upon something to put BP & fellow environmental terrorists OUT OF BUSINESS.

    August 1, 2010 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • coffeebean02


      August 1, 2010 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
    • kobik

      Spot on! Why do you all think BP is in the Gulf at all? What do you think happens to all that oil that's dug up from under the sea bed?

      August 1, 2010 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jan from Texas coast

    Increased bacteria cause decreases of oxygen in the water - some reports say up to 40% of the oxygen in the Gulf has been depleted....areas are "dead zones" where life cannot exist any longer. The consequences of the dispursants HAVE been a huge uncontrolled experiment. It was up to the administration to control the use of these chemicals in the Gulf, and they have miserably failed. An article on Medscape reports The Coast Guard has a "sponge" they have used, which is twice as effective as Corexit 9500 and 1/20 as toxic, and that Corexit creates long term renal and lung issues. And, as to holding BP accountable? The Gulf is permanently altered by use of these chemicals.... there is no known "clean up".... coral and the entire food chain will be altered for a very long time, with unknown consequences which will not be known for years. Unfortunately, the "response" has been inadequate and poorly managed. And as for oil being consumed by bacteria? I've seen small amounts of tar/oill wash up on Texas beaches for years and years - if bacteria eats oil one would not think that would be happening.

    August 1, 2010 at 3:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Plankton

    Here a tought about oxygen in the see, required by all living organism sharing the gulf.
    Where does oxygen com from? Either fro. The water surface or via photo synthesis of plants/algae. If there is only
    A tiny old slick on the surface, oxygen uptake trough the surface is dramatically impaired, so is the exchange of other gases such a carbon dioxide or nitrogen. The other main source is phytoplankton a macro algae, which accounts forna huge amount of oxygen production in the sea... From lab experiments we know this macro algae is very sensitive to the environment and form the foundation of the marine food chain. Once this bacteria that is supposedly consuming The dispersed Oil is going, it will Start to multiply dramatically, which in case of the oil is great, but I regards to the fragile balance of the ecosystem is a disaster. If one species blooms another one will be pushed to extinction ! Erradicating bacteria strains from the ecosystem will have dramatic effects... Many experiments have shown In the past that for example corals will die if only 10% of the batteries are changed or eliminated.

    As mentioned above, phytoplankton is bottom of the food chain. Most organisms feeding up on plankton is doing so sonly by selection via size – eg filter feeding. This organisms have no distinction between oil particles or plankton!!!
    We all know that oil is toxic, so one can now only imagine what the other effect of the dispersed oil on the ecosystem will be...

    Combinennow Alteration of Food Chain, bacterial diversity, oxygen depletion, chain in gas chemistry and many other effects related to toxicity.

    August 1, 2010 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. coffeebean02

    I am the daughter of a deceased petroleum engineer. My Father helped drill the 1st. well that went into the Gulf of Mexico. We traveled in "oil field camps" until we started grade school. We were considered "oil field trash" until the bucks started rolling in. We lived in every oil town surrounding the Gulf...mostly Texas and Louisiana. My Father retired from Humble (before it was Esso) and then retired again with Tenneco as the rigs " Company Man" (oil field talk for the Big Cheese on the rig). After his retirement he jobbed out as expert witness in oil related lawsuits I, and my four siblings grew up listening to "shop talk" and none of us chose the oil industry as careers even though we all knew it was lucrative. The primary reason for this was the disdain that my Father felt regarding the ethics of Big Oil. When I awoke April 20th., 2010 and learned of the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon I knew that life as we know it had changed forever. There is no going back now. The damage (lists long and encompassing) will be played out long past my lifetime. This disaster will set precedent in all regards and will reverberate worldwide. We have only just scratched the surface as we watch it play out on day 104. On a personal level...I'm sad. Sad for the loss of a lifelong love affair with the Gulf of Mexico...and my Father is turning over in his grave. Signing off from New Orleans, La.

    August 1, 2010 at 5:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin

    Another fancy word for solvents. Dump enough thinner on oil & it goes away.

    August 1, 2010 at 5:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ed Zachary

    The story that spawned this discussion is almost totally devoid of information, but there seems to be no shortage of ill-informed opinion here. Personally, I think the bacteria that eat the oil will grow into a giant blob, and when it has eaten all the oil in the Gulf, it will come inland and start attacking cars and even oozing into grocery stores to eat all the vegetable oils...Mazola beware!

    August 1, 2010 at 5:12 am | Report abuse |
    • radsr2002

      LMAO. Thats funny

      August 1, 2010 at 5:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Guido Nijssen

    Dear Mr. BP, as all the Americans loose their overweight will the oil/fat spill be bigger than what you spoiled in the Gulf?

    August 1, 2010 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tracy

    My concern is that Corexit is gonna get into the rain water....There are already reports of crops getting mysterious burns .....Forget about your organic produce then,,,,,

    August 1, 2010 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. sarah

    President investor in Vanguard. Vanguard investor in Nalco/Corexit. Berk~away(Buffett) owns 6% of Nalco. Obama gives his bf Buffett a red tie at the White House 2 weeks ago. Last I heard, Presidents have say-so over their Coast Guard.

    August 1, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |


    August 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |