GULF SPILL:

BP ordered to use less-toxic dispersant as crude hits La. wetlands

BP PLC must find a less toxic form of chemical dispersant to use on the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, federal officials told the company late yesterday.

Government sources familiar with the decision said BP must begin using the new forms of dispersant within 72 hours of submitting a list of alternatives to U.S. EPA, The Washington Post reported.

BP has so far used more than 650,000 gallons of Corexit 9500A and Corexit 9527A dispersant on the surface of the Gulf and underwater to break up the crude oil leaking from a riser pipe that broke after a BP-hired drilling rig exploded and sank a month ago.

Dispersants break up oil into tiny droplets that can more easily spread through the water column and be consumed by bacteria and microscopic organisms. But scientists have warned that the dispersants may cause long-term harm to marine life.

"Dispersants have never been used in this volume before," an administration source told The Washington Post. "This is a large amount of dispersants being used, larger amounts than have ever been used, on a pipe that continues to leak oil and that BP is still trying to cap."

The Corexit dispersant is manufactured by Nalco, a company BP shares close ties with. But according to EPA data, Corexit is more toxic and less effective than other dispersants in breaking up the type of crude leaking from the BP well (Greenwire, May 13).

Until now, EPA has not taken a stance on whether one dispersant should be used over another.

Thick crude laps into La. marshes

The first signs of thick oil have invaded Louisiana's freshwater wetlands, Governor Bobby Jindal (R) said last night after touring the region with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident has been lapping at the shore for days in the form of light sheen or scattered tar balls. But the oil at Pass a Loutre, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, is the first evidence of heavy brown crude polluting the freshwater wetlands.

"The day that we've been fearing is upon us today," Jindal said at a news conference last night after his tour of the wetlands.

Nungesser said the blanket of oil has extended into marshes at Pass a Loutre, North Pass and South Pass of the Mississippi River. The containment booms and dispersants aren't enough to protect the region, he added.

Jindal and Nungesser said they are awaiting approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for an emergency permit to dredge sand from nearby areas to build a 40-mile-long line of sand berms on either side of the rivers. The berms would block the oil, and the new man-made beaches would be easier to clean than the marshes, they said.

Oiled turtle cleaned in New Orleans

The first oiled sea turtle rescued from the Gulf spill is being cared for in New Orleans, Audubon Aquarium said yesterday.

The endangered Kemp's ridley turtle arrived Tuesday night after a biologist looking for oiled animals in the slick found it.

The year-old turtle has been bathed from the inside of its mouth to the tips of its flippers and tail, the Associated Press reported. But it will require several more baths.

Ecologists in Texas said they are relieved to have found four Kemp's ridley nests yesterday, a month and a half into the breeding season.

Dead turtles have washed ashore on the Texas Gulf Coast and in several states since the spill began April 20, but officials say no oil was found on them, and their cause of death remains unknown. Kemp's ridley nesting season normally lasts from April 1 through mid-July, but scientists say it could be delayed this year because of cold winter weather.

Fla. gov. delays special session

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist told The Miami Herald yesterday that he has ruled out for now calling the state Legislature into special session to put an amendment on the ballot that would ban oil drilling in Florida waters.

Crist made the decision because he still lacks agreement from lawmakers, he said, but he has not ruled out the possibility.

"I'd rather do it sooner rather than later," he told The Miami Herald. But "the Senate is more amenable than the House, although I'm trying with the House."

Greenpeace targets BP headquarters

Greenpeace activists scaled BP's headquarters building in London today in protest of the spill.

The campaigners hoisted a flag featuring BP's logo covered in oil and bearing the words "British Polluters" from a balcony over the entrance to the U.K. company's headquarters.

"The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico can be traced back to decisions made in this building," Ben Stewart, one of the Greenpeace climbers, told the London Guardian. "Under [BP CEO] Tony Hayward's leadership, BP has taken huge risks to pump oil from ever more remote places, while slashing investment in the clean energy projects that could actually help reduce our dependence on oil and beat climate change."

Hayward reportedly returned to London last night for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 rig workers.

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