Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oil spill: BP accused of using Gulf of Mexico as 'toxic testing-ground'

Louisiana officials have accused BP of turning the Gulf of Mexico into a toxic testing-ground after winning permission for experimental chemical methods of fighting the oil slick

State officials are angry that federal regulators gave the company permission to try out new chemical techniques to break up and hold back the growing tide of oil.

Despite registering concerns about the potential implications for the environment, marine life and human health, Governor Bobby Jindal's administration was cut out of deliberations over the use of dispersants that break up the oil, as the Environmental Protection Agency granted BP permission to release large quantities underwater.

"We don't have any data or evidence behind the use of these chemicals in the water. We're now basically using one of the richest ecosystems in the world as a laboratory," complained Alan Levine, the head of Louisiana's Department of Health and Hospitals.

Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive officer, told WAFB Channel 9 news station that the chemical has undergone "lots of testing" and is biodegradable. "We believe it's a very effective way of containing this spill until such time as we can eliminate the leak," he added.

But Robert Barham, the state's Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, stated that it has not been used at such depths before - BP's leak stems from a pipe one mile below the surface - and that its potential impact and consequences are unknown. This includes how it travels through the water over time.