UWF Researchers Say Chemical Dispersants Are More Harmful Than Oil Spill Alone

PENSACOLA, FL – Wade Jeffrey, a University of West Florida (UWF) biologist with the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation, presented crucial research to an oil task force that convened in Pensacola Florida. The findings found that the chemical sprayed in the Gulf to break up the BP oil spill may not have been effective and could be damaging the ecosystem more than the oil alone. BP dumped almost 2 million gallons of a chemical dispersant called Corexit to clean up the Gulf oil spill which saw more than 172 million gallons after the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. Wade told the task force that when mixed with oil, Corexit is a chemical that is toxic to both phytoplankton and bacteria which are crucial elements in the Gulf of Mexico's fragile food chain. Digital Journal reports: "That (effect) may cascade itself up through other larger organisms as you go up the food web," he said Tuesday. "It's one of those small pieces of a big puzzle of effects. We can't say if we've seen big shifts yet. I don't know that answer yet." Jeffrey was one of several scientists who presented preliminary research findings last week at a Florida Institute of Jeffrey and his researchers found in experiments that BP oil treated with Corexit broke down in seawater, coloring it brown and causing it to become more absorbed in the water. BP claimed that the chemical would break up the oil and allow naturally occurring bacteria in seawater to eventually gobble up the harmful hydrocarbons. Jeffrey's preliminary research contradicts BP's assertion. "What we found in a couple of experiments is that when Corexit is included in the treatment it does not speed up the degradation of the hydrocarbons …," he said. "it might have been better to not use it because it greatly increases the oil that is dissolved in the water instead of concentrating it at the top." Jeffrey and other researchers are being funded by a $10 million grant provided by BP to study the oil's effects on the Gulf Coast's ecosystem. Jeffrey said samples were taken from the waters around the state of Louisiana which saw the highest impact, from Pensacola which saw some, but not nearly as much oil, and from Apalachicola as an unpolluted control. Read Digital Journal article Published by maritime lawyer Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP

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