BP Official: EPA Approved 'Toxic' Dispersant

EPA demands replacement dispersant, BP official says no available alternative.

ByABC News via logo
May 20, 2010, 3:41 PM

May 21, 2010— -- Though the Environmental Protection Agency demanded Thursday BP find a "less toxic" dispersant to battle the oil spill in the gulf, a top BP executive said today the dispersant the company is using was approved by the EPA, is working well and is the best dispersant available.

"The EPA had to approve and the Unified Command and the Coast Guard had to approve the use of that product. It is approved and in fact we've been using it and it has been effective," BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles told "Good Morning America" today. "It's making a difference in this fight to try and keep this stuff from coming to shore."

Though Suttles said BP will continue to search for a better alternative, he said "right now we cannot identify another product that is available that's better than [dispersant] Corexit." His statement brings into question whether BP will comply with the EPA's deadlines for replacig Corexit.

In a statement Thursday, the EPA gave BP 24 hours to find a "less toxic" dispersant and 72 hours to start using it. For weeks, BP assured the government that using Corexit was safe, with officials describing them like soap suds. But on Thursday others painted a far more sinister picture.

"Any living organism that contacts this stuff, particularly the mixture of dispersant and oil, is at significant risk of acute mortality," said marine biologist Rick Steiner.

In fact, EPA testing released Thursday indicates that where the dispersant had been used, 25 percent of all organisms living at 500 feet below the surface died.

"I haven't seen any evidence to show that," Suttles said today. "We're doing extensive monitoring as is NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the EPA. What we're trying to do is make sure this oil doesn't meet the shoreline... We do have some tradeoffs here."

BP has already dumped 700,000 gallons of the dispersant into the sea, and prior to the EPA's announcement, the company defended its use of Corexit after questions were raised about a corporate connection between BP and Nalco, the maker of the product.

In a statement to ABC News Thursday, BP called the chemical "one of the most well-studied dispersants" and said it chose Corexit in part because it could "get a sufficient supply to meet our needs on short notice."