EPA clarifies it wants more information on those dispersants made public

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

EPA issued a statement today drawing attention to its posting on its website late last week of the ingredients in NALCO’s Corexit® dispersants, more than one million gallons of which have now been released into the Gulf of Mexico.  The statement appears to have been issued in response to queries from myself and others as to why the posting was not more prominently flagged by EPA.  It indicates that the most recent disclosure “was possible because NALCO waived their claim” that the ingredient identities are proprietary.  It also makes clear EPA doesn’t consider Nalco’s disclosure to be the end of the story, and that EPA will continue to seek to provide the public with more information about the dispersants than their producers have produced to date.

I’ve posted EPA’s statement just beyond this jump.

Here’s EPA’s statement in full, which I received by email:

STATEMENT FROM EPA:

EPA demanded that dispersant manufacturers make confidential business information (CBI) public. Due to EPA’s efforts, NALCO agreed to allow more of that CBI to be made public.

EPA has posted on its website a list of the chemical components in two of NALCO’s dispersant products – Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527 (Corexit 9527 is no longer in use in the Gulf).  This was possible because NALCO waived their CBI claim to this combined list.  Although, this information does not include the formulation of the dispersant, it is helpful in EPA’s air, water, and sediment monitoring efforts.

EPA will review the CBI claims NALCO and other manufacturers continue to make to determine if they are valid.  If they are not, EPA will release the information to the public.

EPA continues to believe that all dispersant manufacturers should voluntarily waive all CBI claims so that all information can be shared with the American public.

Astute observers will have already noted that the ingredient list lumps together the components of both dispersants into one list, rather than assigning them to one or both products.  Interestingly, since my post yesterday providing the list, an asterisk and note has been added to it to indicate that one of the ingredients – 2-butoxyethanol – is not included in Corexit 9500.  This ingredient is, based on the limited available data, among the more hazardous of all the ingredients on the list.  Nalco’s (or was it EPA’s?) decision to single out this one ingredient and flag it as not being a component of the only dispersant now being employed in the Gulf is curious, and begs the question why they won’t go the next step and assign the other ingredients to one or the other dispersant.

As EPA’s statement notes, NALCO’s waiver also does not allow EPA to require disclosure of the concentrations of the ingredients, something it appears EPA still seeks to have disclosed.  It’s obvious that such information could be vital to monitoring and assessing the impacts of this unprecedented level of dispersant use (under which it’s hard to argue anything other than “the dose does indeed makes the poison”).

More than anything else, however, the statement makes clear that EPA is confronting constraints on its authority and evidentiary and administrative burdens it has yet to meet to compel the degree of disclosure it seeks – and that the American public deserves.

While EPA may yet have more tricks up its sleeves, the ultimate fix to these problems is to make changes to the laws (most notably the Toxic Substances Control Act) that give – and currently limit – EPA’s authority to do its job.

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  1. Posted June 11, 2010 at 8:37 pm | Permalink