Two years after– oil spill clean-up ‘technology’ is apparently not about effectiveness but market dominance–Exxon invented/Nalco manufactured Corexit dispersant is the ONLY product with EPA/DOI pre-approval since 1994. And, pre-approval is a key word in oil spill response-since no companies will stockpile for emergency use a product in the quantities necessary for a large scale disaster unless pre-approval exists. Many products have been listed on the EPA’s official National Contingency Plan (NCP) for oil spill cleanup list but that doesn’t mean they will be allowed to be used on US navigable waters when there is a spill. They still have to go through a request process.
In the past 18 years, no other product but Corexit has ever been approved, despite being inferior in results, more toxic, and more expensive than many of the other products on the list. This has effectively supported and protected a monopoly owned by big oil companies, by setting the situation up in such a way that no other products can compete. Moreover, the pre-approval hurdle has prevented technologically superior and environmentally safe clean up applications from being used—the EPA’s own bureaucratic web has blind sighted itself off track and in effect forced residents and sea life into enduring exposure to horribly toxic chemical concentrations through the use of these preapproved dispersants in their living environments.
One such company with a 23 year history battling with the EPA to obtain preapproval is the OSEI Corporation. Despite its product Oil Spill Eater II (OSE II) being listed on the NCP since 1996 with a record of cleaning up more than 18,000 spills, and rigorous scientific testing that proves it to be an effective and completely non-toxic alternative to dispersants – the EPA has refused requests from Gulf state officials and even BP to permit its use on GOM waters.
“The toxic dispersants add absolutely nothing to EFFECTIVE RESPONSE.
There is no scientific basis for it, and their use violates The Clean Water Act, EPA’s charter and common sense. All stakeholders continue doing the same thing over and over again, with the exact same negative outcome—although the EPA calls the toxins in dispersants’ reasonable tradeoffs’, Corexit and dispersants like it, have a horrible track record”, said Steven Pedigo, CEO OSEI.
Corexit’s label clearly states it can cause kidney failure and death and the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) specifically warns, “Do not contaminate surface water” with it. Additionally, toxicity testing in regards to marine species shows little tolerance by all forms of sea life; thus, applying it on spills as a preferred response method increases the toxicity of the spilled oil on which it is used,” Pedigo emphasized.
Dispersants are gaining a justifiable reputation for exacerbating an ocean spill’s problems by sinking the oil into the water column where 60% of marine species live, adversely effecting their ability to survive. Fears now exist that the entire food chain may be threatened by large quantities of Corexit dispersant used on the Gulf spill. One less known fact is that (per US EPA official guidelines) for a dispersant to be deemed effective, it must sink 45% of the oil within 30 minutes. That’s it… nothing else mentioned in the criteria and no clean up standard is mandated. In other words, the imagined solution to the problem of oil hitting shores or adhering to wildlife is not a solution at all–it just moves the problem to a secondary area creating further complications. Toxic chemical dispersant response has proven to just create more natural resource damages, adverse litigation and generally increase spill related costs. (See Study) .
In a report just published by the Tampa Bay Times on the work of Geologist James Kirby whose research is being overseen by the University of South Florida, harmful quantities of Corexit dispersant and oil are still present and a threat to beachgoers in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tiny globs of it, mingled with the chemical dispersant that was supposed to break it up, have settled into the shallows, mingling with the shells, he said. When Kirby shines his light across the legs of a grad student who’d been in the water and showered, it shows orange blotches where the globs still stick to his skin. Without the UV light, the skin just looks normal.
[Photos courtesy of James “Rip” Kirby]
“If I had grandkids playing in the surf, I wouldn’t want them to come in contact with that,” said Kirby, “The dispersant accelerates the absorption by the skin.”
In Nov of 2011, the US EPA requested a meeting with CEO OSEI Corporation, Steven Pedigo after receiving 373 pages of scientific documents showing that OSEI’s Oil Spill Eater II would be a non-toxic alternative to dispersants and solution to the problems existing in the Gulf. This information included citing EPA’s own requested use of OSE II® on the Osage Indian Reservation in 2003 and a presentation attended by several EPA officials where they were given first hand reports and scientific documentation on results with OSE II on 100’s of spill clean ups performed by the US Navy in San Diego Bay, California, USA.
Concerned citizens, including State Senator AG Crowe of LA who authored a petition to ban the use of dispersants find it hard to believe that EPA and NOAA scientists continue to claim there isn’t yet enough experience and scientific tracking to understand the effects of the use of dispersants.[i] However these same dispersants have been used for the past 25 years on oil spills, notably Exxon Valdez, Torre Canyon Spill-Santa Barbara, the Mega Borg Spill, San Francisco South Korea Tanker spill and countless other spills around the world. A study of the Ixtoc spill showed negative effects lingering 30 years later. The track record has clearly been dismal and there is ample documentation on sick and dying responders and millions of dead species of the sea, water ways and shores.
“Now we have the Deepwater Horizon accumulating reports of tens of thousands of sick Gulf residents and responders, dolphins and other life suffering from an overdose of the by-product of these EPA enforced clean up protocols. What is really sad is that we can’t get approval to apply a proven bioremediation product (OSE II) to truly clean it up. Corexit plus MC252 DWH Oil is a cancer causing combination of chemical compounds which is quite contrary to the premise and purpose of the Clean Water Act,” said a Gulf Rescue Alliance spokesperson Susan Aarde.
Defenders of the use of dispersants indicate it “reduces total environmental damage”. Charlie Pajor a spokesman for the manufacturer of Corexit, Nalco, explained: It’s more toxic to marine life, but less toxic to life along the shore and animals at the surface because the oil is not at the surface,” Pajor said. “It’s generally less environmentally harmful than allowing the oil to migrate to the surface.”
Given that the amount of dispersants applied in the Gulf was unprecedented–1.84 million gallons, both on the surface and injected 5000ft down – the affects are unknown and still being studied.
In a word, two years after, we have – new deepwater drilling permits being issued as part of a campaign to reduce foreign oil dependency, along with Cuba and other US Gulf oil regions stepping up their deep water production—unfortunately the SAME spill countermeasure plans remain in place and advanced technology offering safer and more effective solutions remains under an EPA blockade.
CLEANING UP THE SUNKEN OIL – WHY DOESN’T THAT DESERVE EMERGENCY RESPONSE?
Two years after some of the larger environmental organizations are engaged in conducting much needed studies of the Gulf, maintaining a lobby presence for regulatory legislation and/or bringing the responsible parties to justice. A most recent study published by Surfrider Foundation, points out with absolute clarity that the BP spill response using dispersants was wholly inadequate. While the bulk of attention is riveted on the horrible effects and who is at fault, The Earth Organization (TEO), founded by renowned conservationist Lawrence Anthony who recently passed away, has been working to get the Gulf’s waters cleaned up as its primary focus.
Barbara Wiseman, International President of TEO said, “At the beginning of the disaster, TEO investigated to find effective, non-toxic technologies currently available in adequate supply to clean up an oil spill of this size. Once we isolated the best solutions, we then investigated to find what the barriers to getting them implemented were. The barriers have all come down to specific people in the EPA. They are, in effect, holding the Gulf hostage and, for some unexplained reason, won’t let it be cleaned up.”
The Earth Organization produced a film to promoted non-toxic solutions entitled: The Crisis in the Gulf released last year. Interviewed in the film are scientists, fishermen, government officials and OSE II’s inventor Steven Pedigo, as an example of one effective solution that the EPA has dedicatedly blocked despite all scientific indications to the contrary.
With little support from the EPA over their 23 year history, the OSEI Corporation (which has pre-approval for its bioremediation product in India, Greece, Nigeria and South Korea), just sent 12 certified letter submissions to the Department of Interior, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) urging pre-approval of OSE II for cleaning up the Gulf and inclusion in the Spill Countermeasure Plan as well as for use in regard to all the permitting, approvals and licensing in all BSEE districts.
In June of 2011 the Department of Interior released a test conducted on the effectiveness of dispersants compared to the OSE II product finding its ability to actually clean up a spill (not sink it) was exceptional. [ii] “Since the EPA did not seem interested in finding an alternative for toxic dispersants, we decided to seek pre-approval through the DOI since they themselves preformed the testing showing dispersants to be questionable in truly remediating a spill”, commented Pedigo.
In a conference call on April 16th 2012 between EPA Regional Response Team 6 Officials (Steve Mason, Jim Staves, Ragan Broyles) and OSEI CEO who requested the use of OSE II on the recent Shell Oil Spill in the Gulf, no consensus could be reached. According to Pedigo, who has been demanding an in-writing response to his formal pre-approval request from RRT 6 for more than a year, one of the conference call participants’ said: “we cannot come up with a reason not to use OSE II”.
[i] http://articles.latimes.com/2010/sep/04/science/la-sci-dispersants-20100905 Mervin Fingas, a retired scientist with the Canadian government, said that of roughly 40 biodegradability studies he surveyed between 1997 and 2008, about 60% said dispersant retarded growth of oil-eating microbes and 15% reported no effect. The remaining 25% noted a positive effect.
But positive findings are open to interpretation. At a 1999 oil spill conference, researchers reported that microbial populations dining on oil treated with the dispersant Corexit 9500 (used by BP in the gulf) grew more than seven times as large as those eating oil dispersed physically, suggesting the bacteria were helping.
Yet a comprehensive 2005 review of dispersants by the National Research Council concluded that the healthy bacterial growth in such studies could easily be due to microbes feeding on dispersant, not oil. “There is no conclusive evidence demonstrating either the enhancement or the inhibition of microbial biodegradation when dispersants are used,” the 12 authors wrote.
Some confusion comes from the diversity of dispersant formulas, Fingas said. Some contain chemicals that bacteria prefer to digest. Others block the ability of some microbes to attach to oil droplets and start feeding on the hydrocarbons.
The primary purpose of dispersants is to move oil away from surface-dwelling marine life. In the case of the BP well blowout, because the application was deep under the sea, much of the oil never rose to the surface — which means it went somewhere else, said Robert Diaz, a marine scientist at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
[ii] The US department of Interior, through solicitation number M08PS00094, award number: M09PC002, through their Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Enforcement (BOEMRE), (previously Mineral Management Service) paid for a study of dielectric oil’s ability to be dispersed, skimmed and bio remediated.
Information specifically related to the product called OSE II begins on page 12. It states:
This bioremediation effectiveness testing protocol (CFR, 1999) was designed to determine oil’s ability to naturally biodegrade by quantifying changes in the oil composition resulting from biodegradation.
An EPA National Contingency Plan (NCP) approved product, Oil Spill Eater II (Oil
Spill Eater International, Corp.), was included in the experimental design. Bioremediation testing on Oil Spill Eater II (OSE II) has proven it to be effective at degrading highly-saturated crude oils in the laboratory.”
Submitted by: Gulf Rescue Alliance
POC: Susan Aarde