Hazmat Dive into the Middle of the Gulf Oil Spill

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What is the chemical dispersant, Corexit, doing to the oil in the Gulf? This video follows Philippe Cousteau Jr. and Sam Champion as they dive into Gulf's oily waters wearing hazmat uniforms. Their video shows that the oil is being broken up into tiny droplets that coat everything in their path ... birds, fish, whales, boats, the bottom of the sea and people in hazmat suits ... these small droplets also burn the skin and are eaten by marine animals, killing them (or poisoning predators, like people, who eat these fish).

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The idea is that if you can't clean the oil up you want it to degrade as quickly as possible. Causing the oil to break into small drops and spread through out the water column is the whole point, it gives the only things that break the oil down (microbes) orders of magnitude more surface area to work with. The question is if the trade off for faster degradation of the oil is worth the possible damage. If it caused the oil to be digested by microbes in a day? Sure. If it gave a fraction of a percent faster breakdown? No. Hopefully the answer is closer to the fast side, but I don't know if any studies have been done on it, esp given the exact oil and the fact that the gulf has rather warm water)

By Robert S. (not verified) on 27 May 2010 #permalink

The question is if the trade off for faster degradation of the oil is worth the possible damage.

Given the crap being used, I'd say that's a big old "no" in this case.

The idea is that if you disperse it in the water column, (dilution is the solution to pollution, dontchaknow), then there won't be as much floating around to clean up or give the media ugly pictures to tie to the spilling company. The question is if the trade off for the better PR of hiding the oil in the water column is worth the possible damage.

The stuff is called "Corexit" fercrissakes.

As Phillipe said, this is a nightmare. Living on the Gulf Coast I can tell you that we're all here waiting on the oil to reach the shore. There is NOT enough being done, there are stories in the news all around here of organizations and individuals who have methods that can be helpful in this situation who are being told they have to "go through channels of approval" prior to testing their methods. One of these companies is in Naples, FL where a company who has been manufacturing adsorbent (repels water, attracts oil) from inert recycled materials for over a decade; this product is carried on the majority of European tankers to clean up filling spills. They were told by the coast guard they will not likely gain approval until this incident is already over. Another company wants to use coastal hay to absorb the oil and they too have been rejected (except for Walton County who is using it). This is something that can't hurt to try, it's hay, we know it won't harm marine life and it will provide income for local farmers; can the same be said for "Corexit"?
You tell me, would you rather be covered in hay or chemical dispersants? Who is running this show???