Guest Post: Even BP-Funded Scientists Find that the Use of Corexit Dispersant in the Gulf Made Things Worse … but BP Still Tries to Blame Others for Destruction

Washington’s Blog

As the Herald Tribune notes, even BP-funded scientists are finding that dispersant made things worse:

BP succeeded in sinking the oil from its blown well out of sight — and keeping much of it away from beaches and marshes last year — by dousing the crude with nearly 2 million gallons of toxic chemicals. But the impact on the ecosystem as a whole may have been more damaging than the oil alone.

The combination of oil and Corexit, the chemical BP used to dissolve the slick, is more toxic to tiny plants and animals than the oil in most cases, according to preliminary research by several Florida scientists. And the chemicals may not have broken down the oil as well as expected.

Scientists reported some of their early findings last week at a Florida Institute of Oceanography conference at the University of Central Florida. The researchers were funded a year ago through a $10 million BP grant.

There is anecdotal evidence that dispersant was still being applied many months after BP and the government said spraying had stopped. See this, this, this, this, this, this, and this.

In related news:

  • The Sarasota Herald Tribune notes:

A mixture of oil and dead organic particles may still be falling to the deep bottom of the northern Gulf of Mexico, potentially harming the base of a food web that supports all kinds of sea life, from giant whales and blue-fin tuna to grouper and snapper.

In water thousands of feet deep, scientists have discovered a “dirty blizzard” that deposited more than three inches oil mixed with decayed plant and animal material near the site of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout last year.

A quarter to half of the oil that spewed from the blown wellhead – between 186 million to 227 million gallons – is still unaccounted for and thought to be lingering in the deep sea, said Benjamin Flower, a geological oceanographer with the University of South Florida.


Traces of oil were found in the top layer of the sediments, as well as single-celled plants and animals, some of which were deformed.

Oily sediments were also found near the Desoto Canyon, a prime fishing area. Near the same area, on the West Florida Slope, other toxic effects on the bottom of the food web have been observed.

Damage to the small plants and animals that make up the bottom of the food web can ripple through the ecosystem because it removes important food sources for larger fish.

Among some of the other observations made by scientists so far:

• In lab research on conch, shrimp and oysters, the combination of crude and Corexit – the toxic chemical BP used to dissolve the oil – is more toxic than oil alone.

• Oil remains buried in the sand of Panhandle beaches, disrupting microscopic life in the sand and also posing a threat to shorebirds and the offspring of sea turtles.

• Pregnant dolphins in the northern Gulf may have been unable to find sufficient food following the oil spill, a potential factor in the unusual die-off of infant and neonatal dolphins earlier this year.

• Cancer-causing chemicals from the crude, such as benzene and toluene, may still be lingering in the ecosystem because they do not degrade easily.

  • And even the reports of large numbers of sick fish in Gulf are so widespread that even NOAA is talking about it. As the Pensacola News Journal reports:

For the first time [NOAA is] warning anglers that some fish are sick and may pose health problems if handled or eaten raw.The agency is telling anglers to toss fish that have lesions, fin rot or discolored skin back into the Gulf and to be careful about handling them. This warning comes just one week before the June 1 opening of recreational red snapper season.

NOAA … acknowledged that fishermen and scientists have recently reported and documented lesions on fish they are catching in federal waters off Alabama.


The reports of sick fish correlate with areas most impacted by the BP oil spill, said Jim Cowan Jr., the Louisiana State University Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences scientist who is at the center of the sick fish studies off the Alabama coast.


“I’m very worried because I’ve talked to both commercial and recreational fishermen who have been in the business 30 to 40 years and no one has seen anything like this,” he said.


Commercial fisherman Donnie Waters has been fishing the Gulf since 1974. He was shocked to learn that the sick fish he’s been catching and sending to scientists for study are infected with the dangerous bacteria.”I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before,” he said. “I’m deeply concerned about the long-term impact of the fishery of the eastern Gulf.”

Of course, BP isn’t accepting blame for any of the damage. As Plaintiff’s attorney Stuart Smith notes:

The BP-government spin machine belched back into gear last week – and the intent, as it has been since Day One, is to dupe the world into believing that a 200-million-gallon oil spill has minimal impact on the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s what the spin masters would have us believe. So when record numbers of dead and “stranded” sea turtles started washing ashore across the Gulf Coast, the BP-government PR team went looking for someone or something to deflect attention from the 200 million gallons of crude and 2 million gallons of toxic dispersant that was pumped into the water over nearly 3 months.

So now we are being subjected to the same sort of attempt at damage control that we saw when all the dead dolphins came ashore not long ago. Is anybody else starting to see a pattern here? The spill has broken the back of the Gulf ecosystem, and now we’re dealing with the fallout.

In the case of the turtles as it was with the dolphins, the BP-government objective is to divert attention away from last year’s massive oil spill. So who or what to blame? What killed or stranded the 600 sea turtles – six times the annual average – that washed ashore in 2010 during the height of the BP spill? How do the damage-control wizards explain why, already this year, 563 sea turtles have been stranded in just four Gulf states?

Well, here’s what the spin maestros – backed by NOAA scientists – came up with: The shrimpers did it.

That’s what they’d have us believe. The shrimpers killed hundreds and hundreds of sea turtles – most of them endangered Kemp’s ripleys – with their big nets (and their devastated lives). It wasn’t the 200 million gallons of oil, it was the shrimpers.


Despite the far-fetched nature of the accusation, the BP-government spinners came out firing – implying that the sharp spike in turtle deaths is due entirely to the fact that shrimpers aren’t using their regulation-mandated “turtle excluder devices.” TEDs, as they’re called, are designed to keep sea turtles like Kemp’s ripleys out of shrimpers’ gear and nets.

“This is a serious problem,” said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA’s national sea turtle coordinator. But Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle, who’s also a shrimper, disagrees: “The only turtles that are being destroyed are the turtles in the oil spill.”

Did I mention that the official shrimp season just opened last week? And I should mention it opened to reports of small catches, and the shrimp that are being caught are much smaller than usual.

Click here to see photos.

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About George Washington

George Washington is the head writer at Washington’s Blog. A busy professional and former adjunct professor, George’s insatiable curiousity causes him to write on a wide variety of topics, including economics, finance, the environment and politics. For further details, ask Keith Alexander…


  1. Richard

    I understand it’s a guest post, but why is NC consistently more negative in tone towards BP versus TEPCO? Both are natural disasters caused in part by corporate greed and neglected safety protocols. Both companies had slow responses and tried to cover up the extent of the damage.

    Contrast the last article on Fukushima, which reads in a neutral and journalistic tone whereas the past year’s articles on BP have just been scathing towards the company.

    1. Binky the Bear

      Because BP is evil and has been since its inception? A national company chartered by a state to steal oil from Persians that has built on that dark history with oil spills, refinery explosions, corrupt management and oppressive tactics?

    2. Billions for me, None for you

      BP and TEPCO are first and foremost good corporate citizens and good neighbors. They should be celebrated for their vast contributions to our American way of life, and for their patronage of the arts and culture.*

      *Paid for by Billions for me, None for you, a non-profit think tank supporting bi-partisan politicians in their quest for change and hope.

    3. Paul Jurczak

      “Both are natural disasters” is plainly false. An earthquake followed by tsunami is a natural disaster. Hauling a multi-billion dollar oil drilling platform to deep water and drilling a hole in the bottom of the ocean is definitely man made. So is cutting cost on oil well cementing job.

      BTW, I have nothing good to say about TEPCO either, but that’s a different story.

    1. ijkl

      I’m on the see-food diet. I see food and I eat it.

      I’m also all for drilling wherever there is oil no matter the consequences.*

      *As long as the consequences don’t affect me personally.

  2. scraping_by

    More negative in tone? Purely subjective, unless you’re willing to do an analysis matrixing the number of negatives against the negative impact of the phrase, word, or picture. Mere number of negatives can have other causes. Put out a measurable negativity index, apply it to all available posts, then you can make claims about more or less negative in tone.

    As for me and mine, even if you calculate BP is slanged in comparison to TEPCO, it’s permissible. It’s not denigrating the suffering of the Japanese people to note that it’s our home that got fouled. Those are American beaches that will never be the same. That’s our government that’s bootlicking the oil company. That’s our fellow citizens who have been fouled out of their homes and jobs.

    While GW and our gracious hostess may think of this notion as parochialism (I do not speak for them), most of us give it a much better name. Taking responsibility is the real patriot act, not wiretapping and kicking in doors.

    1. Susan Truxes

      When you consider that BP and Transocean were negligent and cut corners from the beginning, rushing thru an installation that was bound to blow up with no remedy, they are worse than TEPCO. Although word is out now that long ago TEPCO analyzed the offshore fault and understood the risks and took them. The radioactivity in the Pacific Ocean will be there for 30,000 years. The oil on the bottom of the Gulf will be there for a century. Oil from the Exxon Valdez still oozes up through the sand. There isn’t even one small corner of the planet we haven’t fouled. Yet there is no attempt to create technology to clean up after our messes in any significant way. That is a science and industry where we should be heavily incentivizing. The EPA is so pathetic. It allowed a poison like Corexit to be used which just made things worse.

    2. ambrit

      This ‘a___licking’ has ben going on for a long time down here in the Oil Patch. A signifigant portion of the wetlands los in South Louisiana is directly caused by the thousands of miles of ‘access canals’ dug by the oil companies to facilitate their activities near and onshore. Any fisherman down here will tell you about the salt water fresh water divide moving up oilfield access canals farther inland every year. As to the miserable condition of lots of the oil pipelines in the marshes…

  3. ambrit

    Phyllis and I were still living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast when the BP rig blew up. A few weeks into the affair we would smell the oil when the onshore breeze set in. Not all the time, but once in a while. It was the eeriest feeling, the smell wasn’t like any oil based smell anyone would encounter in day to day living. Almost sweet it was. Sad to say, human greed and callousness will guarantee this is not the last energy related “natural” disaster.
    Mz Smith, I get the feling you are conversant with the SF Canon. Ever read Philip Wylies’ “The End of the Dream?”

  4. Lloyd C. Bankster

    Well, I directed my traders to dump 44% (4.6 million shares) of BP stock three weeks before the explosion.

    And I called up David (David Sidwell, Risk Committee Chairman of UBS) and suggested he sell BP, and so UBS dumped 99 percent of BP stocks, or 2.1 million shares before the explosion.

    Wachovia/Wells Fargo was also dumping BP shares at that time.

    And Tony (Haywood) sold 1/3 of his BP stock (223,288 shares) on March 17 – a month before the explosion.

    And we made sure that all the Corexit competitors were ruled out of the competition, despite the fact that many of them were far less toxic and, in some cases, nearly twice as effective.

    Then after selling BP shares, I wrote $55 calls and “puts” for the January 2012 expiration allowing for an outstanding cash-on-cash return in case BP merely bounced back in the weeks or months after the explosion, which of course it did, giving me a huge return on the actual cash outlay (by writing the puts against paid-up marginable equity already held in my margin-type account)

    And so, BP and Corexit have been very good to me, as well as my good friends David, Tony and Warren (Buffett).

  5. nianne holder

    Don’t forget days before the Macondo blew Halliburton purchases the
    clean-up crews for well disasters.What a coinky-dink,hmmm….then there’s the
    BP man and Schlumberger man who violently argued about the well test as it kicked. Schlumberger called for a helicopter (at company expense) after BP guy snarked “you’re to stay and finish the job, then you can go”. Schlumberger left with their workers… Hours later with no repairs, failed tests and attempts to cement, the blowback exploded….yet then neither man is subpoened…
    (a Deepwater employee engaged in a satellite phone conversation with BP was overheard by the Coast Guard saying, “I hope you’re happy now … the f****** rig is burning!” )The rig burned for hours, flipped and sank (surprisingly convenient fora cover up of very deep politics). Continue to follow this and it is a connection that is far reaching of empire and decay, degradation to all life forms on this planet and oh, notice not alot of ire from our enviromentalist groups? A friend and I attended an invitation from the public( that was not publicised)a 4/2011 symposium that presented scientist Dr.Amanda Joye 30-45 minutes after a parade of “science projects” by university underclassman and student awards. Her powerpoint was data shared before and after the Macondo accident (DWH) . She was very guarded in her talk. Afterwards she spoke off record. She was adamant about speaking the science(truth and ). There is an agenda. Yes it is what it looks like. Go to a Gulf vacation site and see with your own eyes.The GOM is dead. If interested do visit these sites and do research, but fyi much has been removed since 2010,especially from noaa (unless you sign up for acess) or pay a knuclehead for maps.

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