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Earth Science

Oil Dispersants Used During Gulf Spill Degrade Slowly In Cold Water 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-to-bring-out-the-oil-dispersant-dispersants dept.
MTorrice writes "During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, clean up crews applied millions of liters of dispersants to break up the oil. At the time, the public and some scientists worried about the environmental effects of the chemicals, in particular how long they would last in the deep sea. According to a new Environmental Protection Agency study, the key active ingredient in the dispersants degrades very rapidly under conditions similar to those found at the Gulf surface during the spill. Meanwhile, in the much colder temperatures found in the deep sea, the breakdown is quite slow. The chemicals' persistence at deep-sea and Arctic temperatures suggests more research is needed on their toxicity, the researchers say."
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Oil Dispersants Used During Gulf Spill Degrade Slowly In Cold Water

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @07:38PM (#42889751)
    They were screwed either way. If they hadn't used them, there'd be a congressional inquiry asking why we didn't bring all the technology we possibly could to bear on this horrible accident. There's always a line of people who are salivating to second-guess whatever decision gets made. I'm guessing there are a lot of pelicans who, if they could talk, would be praising the use of the dispersants.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:10PM (#42890081)

    How about we stop letting corporations run shoddy operations to save a few bucks and keep the oil from getting in the water to begin with?

  • by MtHuurne (602934) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:27PM (#42890283) Homepage

    Given that both using and not using the chemicals has drawbacks and that it is difficult to make good decisions at a time of crisis, isn't it a good thing this study is done now? That way, when another spill happens, there is more knowledge to base decisions on.

  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:33PM (#42890339)

    The use of dispersants (really, the term should be "submergants") just caused the oil to sink to the sea floor. This in no way mitigates the actual problem, and may in fact compound it over time. However, it did allow the EPA, the Obama administration, and BP to rehabilitate their severely tarnished images, because this was a problem that you couldn't see easily.

    Gulf seafood is off the menu for millions of people now, and into the foreseeable future, because these "dispersants" just happen to be extremely toxic to humans.

    Unfortunately, we appear to have learned nothing and will probably use this kind of sweeping under the rug tactic when future spills happen.

  • by Cryacin (657549) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @08:39PM (#42890421)
    On a long enough timescale, no matter how well funded, mistakes will occur.
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday February 13, 2013 @09:44PM (#42891015) Homepage Journal

    On a long enough timescale, no matter how well funded, mistakes will occur.

    Sure, but when the rewards are greater than the cost of the consequences of the mistakes, those mistakes become more frequent.

    In fact, they become part of the business model.

    I mean, who knew that allowing the banking industry to engage in limitless derivatives investing could possibly cause any problems to the economy? Who could have predicted that an earthquake and tsunami could kill the power to an old, poorly-maintained nuclear plant, causing the release of radiation? Why would anyone think that turning firearms into consumer products as readily available as cell phones might end up in a society with a lot of gun violence? What moron would think that injecting toxic chemicals into bedrock under high pressures near populated areas could possibly cause contamination of ground water, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and fracturing chemicals to the surface, surface contamination from spills and flowback or that those might cause health risks?

    I mean, mistakes will occur.

  • by pipelayerification (1707222) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @12:10AM (#42892173)
    A $4.5 billion penalty is hardly a slap on the wrist. BP has set aside about $38 billion to settle up on the disaster in addition to the fines. There has never been an oil well worth that much money in history. It will certainly have an affect on the way they conduct their business in the future. Statistics do not bear out that ubiquitous gun ownership leads to dramatic increases in gun violence, in fact, quite the opposite is true. And while fracking is certainly not the panacea that many in the gas industry would like everyone to believe it is certainly not the Pandora's box that environmental alarmists would have you believe either.

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