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Scientist: More Study Needed on BP Oil Dispersants

July 15, 2010

A scientist and expert in ocean oil spills says fear over dispersant being used in the Gulf is mostly unfounded, but he adds that more information is needed.

Oil spill expert Chris Reddy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution says he has confidence in the cleanup decisions made in the Gulf so far. He told the presidential oil spill commission this week that a lot of information is known about what happens when the dispersant known as Corexit is used to break up oil spills on the ocean's surface. However, in the Deepwater Horizon spill it is being used near the well blowout, a mile below the surface, and he says not enough is known about sub-surface use.

"I don't feel comfortable about commenting on that until I see any data that would indicate to me the success, or the lack thereof, of using it."

Reddy says while testifying before the presidential oil spill commission in New Orleans, he sensed a lot of understandable public concern about the long-term impact of the spill and cleanup, but he is afraid some of it is being whipped up falsely.

"There are some scientists who are making sometimes a dire prediction about the health of the Gulf, but at this point, we just don't have that data to make long-term predictions about the recovery of the Gulf."

Reddy complains about something he calls the "CSI effect," which he says leads the public to anticipate the "evidence" will be methodically and quickly gathered and the "case" of the Gulf oil spill will be all wrapped up tidily, like the end of a television show.

"At this point, asking about the recovery is like pulling on the arm of a surgeon who is dealing with somebody who was in a car accident with multiple injuries, and asking whether or not the guy is going to make the company softball picnic game in a couple of months."

Reddy says a million gallons of dispersant have been applied to the Gulf of Mexico, more than the amount of oil spilled in any single accident prior to the B-P disaster. That, he says, is additional cause for further study.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - FL