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. After offseason of work hard, play hard, DeSean Jackson ready to produce for Bucs


    TAMPA — There's no telling what DeSean Jackson will do once he gets a football in his hands. Perhaps that's why a camera crew followed his every move Wednesday while the Bucs' new $30 million receiver stood on a step of the hot tub that empties into a spacious, azure pool at his new, sprawling five-bedroom home in …

    DeSean Jackson jokes around with girlfriend Kayla Phillips at their Tampa home as a crew from HBO’s Hard Knocks documents their day.
  2. Trump announces $10 billion Foxconn plant in Wisconsin


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that electronics giant Foxconn will build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin that's expected to initially create 3,000 jobs, the largest economic development project in state history.

    President Donald Trump embraces Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the East Room of the White House during an announcement Wednesday that Foxconn is going to build a plant in Wisconsin.
  3. Playoff chase heats up for Rays with key series at Yankees up first (w/ video)

    The Heater


    It was important that Evan Longoria crushed a two-run homer in the sixth inning Wednesday and Steven Souza Jr. blasted a solo shot off the farthest catwalk an inning later.

    Adeiny Hechavarria (11) and Tim Beckham (1) celebrate the double play to end the top of the sixth inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Conservatives come to Sessions' defense amid Trump attacks


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans and influential conservatives rallied around Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday as President Donald Trump kept up his public pelting of the nation's top law enforcement officer and left his future in doubt.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions
  5. Jones: Alex Cobb proves again why he's Rays' stopper, no matter how long he's here (w/ video)

    The Heater


    If a team hopes to hang around the pennant race, it better have an ace. A stopper. A pitcher it can count on every fifth day to stop the bleeding, keep a winning streak going or flat-out win a game that a team flat-out needs to win.

    Rays starting pitcher Alex Cobb (53) throwing the first inning. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]