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The 90 Day Plan

Monday, May 24, 2010

BP Chooses Not To Change Dispersants Despite EPA Directive

This is an e-Alert from our good friends at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network!

In a letter dated May 20, 2010 BP responded to an EPA directive requiring BP to use a less toxic dispersant by defending its use of COREXIT products as the best option available.

Based on the information that is available today, BP continues to believe that COREXIT was the best and most appropriate choice at the time when the incident occurred and that COREXIT remains the best option for subsea application.

Before the Coast Guard and EPA issue further directives requiring a change in dispersant products or monitoring, we would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the options and their efficacy and potential impacts, in view of the circumstances at the spill site, and the proposed methods of usage.

The EPA directive stated:

Within 24 hours of the issuance of this Addendum 2, BP shall identify to the FOSC and the EPA RRT Co-chair for EPA's and the FOSC's approval, one or more approved dispersant products from the National Contingency Plan Product Schedule that are available in sufficient quantities, are as effective at dispersing the oil plume, and have a toxicity value less than or equal to  23.00 ppm LC50 toxicity value for Menidia or 18.00 ppm LC50 for Mysidopsis, as indicated on the NCP Product Schedule  (  The less toxic dispersant product(s) shall be used by BP for surface application and subsurface application as directed by the FOSC. Within 72 hours after submitting the list of alternatives, and after receiving EPA approval, BP shall immediately use only the approved alternative dispersant.  Should BP not be able to identify alternative dispersant products, BP shall provide the FOSC and EPA RRT CO-Chair a detailed description of the products investigated, the reason the products did not meet the standards described above.  Availability shall be based on existing stockpiles of dispersants, the estimated time to begin and aerial and subsurface application, time for manufacturing, shipping, and warehousing.

In other words BP was asked to:
  1. Identify one or more alternative (to the currently used COREXIT products) dispersant products that is already approved for use in the national oil-spill response plan that is:
    1. as effective as the currently used COREXIT products
    2. has a toxicity that is less than 2 specific toxicity test measurements
  2. Provide the identified products to the Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC), Rear Admiral Mary Landry of the U.S. Coast Guard and the EPA Regional Response Team (RRT) Co-chair, Samuel Coleman of the EPA for their review.
  3. Then, if the EPA approved the alternative dispersant(s), within 72 hours of receiving EPA approval BP was to immediately use only the alternative dispersant for surface and subsurface use.
If BP was unable to do the above, then BP was to give a detailed description of the products that it had investigated and the reasons why they did not meet the given criteria.

BP asserted in its letter that only 5 products in the list of dispersants in the national oil spill response plan meet the criteria given by the EPA. These are: Sea Brat #4, Nokomis 3-F4, Nokomis 3-AA, Mare Clean 200 and Neos AB3000.

BP went on to assert that of the 5 alternative products identified only Sea Brat #4 was available in sufficient quantities for use. However, BP believed that Sea Brat #4 should not be used without further evaluation because it contains a small amount of a chemical that may degrade to a nonylphenol.

Nonylphenol is a family of organic compounds that are considered to be endocrine disruptors due to a weak ability to mimic estrogen and in turn disrupt the natural balance of hormones in a given organism. Nonylphenol is persistent in the environment, and therefore lingers with the potential to negatively affect organisms it comes in contact with. Nonylphenol also bioaccumulates, which means that it could work its way up the food chain.

In BP's letter the availability of sufficient quantities of the dispersants is repeatedly given as "one of the most important criteria" in the selection of dispersants. In its letter BP states that "the manufacturers (of the other dispersants) tell us that they cannot produce the requested volume for 10 to 14 days or more."

In the BP letter an attachment is referenced a number of times. This attachment is said to contain "a table that describes the availability and production capacity for each dispersant option." As well as "a table that shows the expected effectiveness ratings for the four other dispersants that meet the acute toxicity criteria in (the EPA directive)."

Attached to the letter is a document titled "Attachment: Evaluation of EPA-Pre Approved Chemical Oil Dispersants" However this attachment contains evaluations of Corexit EC9500A, COREXIT EC9527A, JD-2000, Nokomis 3-FA, Sea Brat #4 and Saf-Ron Gold. It does NOT contain evaluations of Mare Clean 200, Nokomis 3-AA or Neos AB3000.

Interestingly, JD-2000, according to the attached tables, appears to be, by far, the least toxic product evaluated and slightly more effective than the COREXIT products and yet it does not appear in the actual BP letter.

The attachment also makes it clear that BP has or claims to have insufficient data to make proper evaluations of the dispersant products.

BP's response to the EPA directive makes it more clear than ever that EPA in cooperation with NOAA and the Coast Guard should be making the decisions about which dispersants are to be used and in what manner they are to be used.

Approximately 785,000 gallons of total dispersant have been deployed - 685,000 on the surface and 100,000 subsea.

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