As result of a recent court settlement, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard are now required to ensure that the use of any oil-dispersing chemicals used in the waters off the California coast will not harm endangered species or their habitats. Conservation brought forth the suit to ensure that the safety of endangered species was determined before and not after the dispersing of such chemicals, as previously occured in 2010’s Deepwater Horizon spill.
“We shouldn’t add insult to injury after an oil spill by using dispersants that put wildlife and people at risk. During the BP oil spill, no one knew what the long-term effects of chemical dispersants would be, and we’re still learning about their harm to fish and corals,” said Deirdre McDonnell of the Center for Biological Diversity, which brought suit with Surfrider Foundation and Pacific Environment. “People can avoid the ocean after an oil spill, but marine animals can’t. They’re forced to eat, breathe and swim in the chemicals we put in the water, whether it’s oil or dispersants.”
In the event of an oil spill, dispersants are released to treat the area. These chemicals break the oil down into tiny droplets to then be consumed by smaller microorganisms. This process allows the oil to become diluted faster than if left untreated, but unfortunately also allows toxins to accumulate in the marine food web, negatively damaging those exposed.
The Pacific Ocean encompasses some of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, providing habitat for many endangered and threatened species,” said Kevin Harun, Arctic program director for Pacific Environment. “The government needs to take the precautionary approach in order to prevent future harm to the health of the environment and people.”
Damaging effects resulting from exposure to both oil and dispersants have already been found in birds, fish, corals, sea turtles and several other marine life animals – increasing their chance of disease and affecting their ability to live.
“These chemical dispersants are dangerous to human health in addition to wildlife, and shouldn’t be allowed to threaten a family’s enjoyment of the beach. Surfrider Foundation members in Florida are so concerned about the aftereffects of the BP spill, they have taken it upon themselves to test the Gulf sand and coastal waters, and have found likely traces of Corexit attached to undissolved tar product in the coastal zone,” said Surfrider Foundation’s Legal Director, Angela Howe.