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EPA Posts Underwater Dispersant Monitoring Data/Under stringent plan, BP must conduct constant monitoring of dispersant use at leak source and provide data to the government

Release Date: 05/20/2010
Contact Information: 202-564-6794

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last night began posting results from the ongoing monitoring of BP’s use of underwater dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico at EPA received this data from BP last night and posted it within hours. Dispersants are a chemical used to break up oil into small droplets so that they are more easily degraded. Dispersants are generally less toxic than the oils they break down.

This is part of EPA’s continued commitment to make air, water, sediment and dispersant monitoring data available to the public as quickly as possible and to ensure the citizens of the gulf region have access to all relevant public and environmental health information relating to the BP spill.

On May 15, EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard authorized BP to use dispersants underwater at the source of the Deepwater Horizon leak. As the dispersant is used underwater, BP is required to do constant, scientifically rigorous monitoring so EPA scientists may determine the dispersant’s effectiveness and impact on the environment, water and air quality, and human health. EPA is posting the information BP collects during the monitoring to ensure the public has access to this data.

While EPA has not yet identified any significant effects on aquatic life, EPA today also directed BP to begin using, within 72 hours, a less toxic and more effective dispersant. EPA took this step because BP is using this dispersant in unprecedented volumes and, last week, began using it underwater at the source of the leak – a procedure that has never been tried before. Given the unprecedented use, EPA wants to ensure BP is using the least toxic approved product.

Regardless of which dispersant BP uses, EPA has been and will continue to closely scrutinize the monitoring results. EPA still reserves the right to stop BP’s use of dispersants underwater entirely if the science indicates that this dispersant method has negative impacts on the environment that outweighs its benefits.

EPA continues to add information to its BP oil spill response Web site to keep the public informed about the impact of the spill and the EPA’s response. The public can also see results of EPA’s ongoing air, water and soil quality monitoring on the Web site.

The dispersant page:

Continue to track EPA’s response to the spill:

Additional information on the broader response from the U.S. Coast Guard and other responding agencies: