Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: Doesn't dispersant harm life?

Doesn't dispersant harm life?

As boaters, we know that when there is a spill of fuel at the fueling docks/marina, we are not allowed to use dispersants. The Coast Guard should be called. We know that using dispersants (like, for example, Dawn dishwashing liquid) only further hinders the cleanup by making the pollutants sink. Why then did Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen allow the widespread use of chemical dispersants in the gulf? We have all seen the ugly pictures of the well-dispersed oil in the water. This has got to be more impactful on the sea life than if they had just skimmed it off the top.

We turned to Edward Van Vleet, University of South Florida College of Marine Science director of academic affairs, for help with this one. He writes:

"The reader is absolutely right about the use (or non-use) of chemical dispersants. Most states prohibit the use of dispersants near shorelines and coastal areas. Dispersants have been used primarily to combat oil spills offshore.

"Nonetheless, the use of dispersants offshore is also controversial. The chemical composition of the dispersant allows the oil to be transported away from the surface and deeper into the water. However, dispersants do not alter the toxicity of the oil at all; they just move the oil into a different place. Just because the oil is out of sight does not make it less dangerous to the marine life (in fact, in some cases the dispersant can even increase the toxicity).

"Removing the oil from the surface normally prevents it from later washing ashore and fouling beaches. This is good for the beaches, the wetlands, the mangroves, the tourists, the coastal economies and for marine life that feeds or lives part of the time at the sea surface (such as sea turtles, marine mammals and sea birds). However, after the oil sinks below the surface, it simply becomes available to other marine organisms living deeper in the water column, and hence affects a much broader range of marine life (including fish, plankton, corals, etc.).

"So, indeed the use of dispersants is controversial, and at the very least is a trade-off of which ecosystems to affect."

Another source of good information is a story written by Craig Pittman of the Times on June 25, which contained this statement from EPA administrator Lisa Jackson: Her agency will continue allowing dispersant use because "dispersants are one tool in a situation that could not be more urgent" — even though, she acknowledged, "We know that they come with environmental trade-offs."

You can read that full story here: www. article1104771.ece.

Another story on-point is this one, also by Pittman: dispersants-in-gulf-oil-spill/1094257.

Q&A: Doesn't dispersant harm life?

07/04/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 3, 2010 10:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.