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No Surprise

Gulf Gusher symbolEveryone who actually cared about the health of the Gulf of Mexico has known this from the beginning and wasn’t fooled by BP’s or the government’s propaganda.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune asks: Did BP’s oil-dissolving chemical make the spill worse?

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.

In theory, the chemically dissolved oil should be a feast for bacteria that would break down some of the most harmful products in the oil.

But the Corexit may not have done its job properly, said Wade Jeffrey, a biologist with the University of West Florida’s Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation.

“So far — and this is very preliminary — we’re not seeing a big difference,” Jeffrey said. “The way we’re doing the experiment, the Corexit does not seem to facilitate the degradation of the oil.”

Additionally, the Corexit and oil mixture tends to be more toxic to phytoplankton — tiny microscopic plants — than the oil itself.

Jeffrey worked with a concentration of 1 part per million of oil and a tenth of that concentration for Corexit. Higher doses of oil killed the phytoplankton immediately, leaving Jeffrey with nothing to observe.

To see whether Corexit is more effective at breaking down larger concentrations of oil, Jeffrey plans more experimentation without the phytoplankton.

A similar study showed toxic effects of oil and Corexit on larger species, including conch, oysters and shrimp.

The phytoplankton are the first link in the food chain. They are the tiny plant life that ultimately feeds everything else. If they die, the ecosystem dies.

The use of Corexit was to reduce the amount of visible oil, and hide the magnitude of what was happening. If the dispersants hadn’t been used the oil would have risen to the top of the water, and could have been skimmed, instead of sinking to the bottom and poisoning the floor of the Gulf.

2 comments

1 Steve Bates { 06.02.11 at 11:00 pm }

The real surprise would have been if BP had done the environmentally sound thing and not used Corexit. In that case, considering the propensities of the court system in the John Roberts era, BP could probably have been successfully sued by its stockholders for not maximizing profit.

(Creeping corporatist adjudication is one of several matters for which I cannot even imagine a satisfactory long-term solution in the world of today’s judiciary. In the face of most of America’s potentially catastrophic problems, I retain some small glimmer of hope. In the face of a wholly owned judiciary, I experience true hopelessness.)

2 Bryan { 06.02.11 at 11:32 pm }

BP’s bill for damages just increased exponentially with these findings. This is going to be corporations versus corporations before the “collateral damage”, i.e. the people and governments around the Gulf, even get to court.

BP will probably fracture to provide a sacrificial entity, and allow that entity to go bankrupt. It’s the corporate way.