EPA orders BP to stop using dispersant

By David Spunt - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - BP has been using dispersants to help clean up the oil leaking in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dispersants are chemicals that break up the oil. The EPA approved the use of a potentially toxic chemical called Corexit last week, but backed away from that decision Thursday.

"We're happy that they've directed BP to use less toxic dispersants, but it still doesn't address our issue," said Alan Levine, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Levine said the issue is that dispersants are dangerous. For weeks, he and other state officials urged BP through letters and meetings to stop using Corexit. Now, the EPA is admitting publicly Corexit has never been tested at such deep levels and essentially, may confirm Levine's fears.

"Why would you want to use the Gulf of Mexico as a chemistry lab?" Levine asked.

According to the office of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, a scheduling conflict prevented her from appearing for a satellite interview to discuss the EPA's change of heart on Corexit.

"I would like to understand what data they base this decision on. Why, all of a sudden, is there an epiphany to, 'Wait a minute. These dispersants are toxic and we shouldn't allow it.' That's what we said two weeks ago," Levine said.

A spokesman from BP said the company is already working on several other less toxic dispersants. Levine added the state is working on a Louisiana seafood safety program and expects BP to fund it. More details of the plan are expected to be announced next week.

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