Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) and Chairman of its Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, today urged vigilance in examining the implications of the use of unprecedented volumes of oil dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico, as the full extent of their impacts on wildlife and the water may not be documented for years to come. Senator Cardin made his remarks in a prepared statement for a joint hearing of the full EPW Committee and the Subcommittee on Oversight addressing the “Use of Oil Dispersants in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.”
“Since the spill began, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants were applied in the Gulf. These chemicals break the oil into smaller droplets. In that form it mixes and dilutes into the water column rather than floating on the surface in a big slick. The rationale we’ve been given is that damage to the organisms in the water column is a lesser evil than damage to the wetlands and the birds and fish that live and breed in them,” said Senator Cardin. “Sadly, there is shockingly little to back up those claims. The number of facts we possess about these chemicals is far outweighed by the number of unanswered questions. Here are just a few:
· We have only this past Monday begun to get answers about how toxic these chemicals are when mixed with oil.
· We do not know whether breaking the oil up makes it more or less available to fish and other marine animals.
· We do not know how to track or clean up the plumes of oil that the dispersants have helped push under the surface.
· We don’t know what impact these plumes will have on the ecosystem and the food chain of the Gulf over the long-term.
· We very little information about the effect of dispersants applied 5,000 feet below the sea as this was the first time it has ever been done.
“The constant refrain we have heard is that dispersants present us with a tradeoff: protecting the more environmentally sensitive wetlands and marshes and the species they nurture versus the subsurface water column. But with so little known about dispersants and their impact on the ecosystem as a whole, I don’t know how responders could have effectively evaluated the risks and come to this judgment.
“The Water and Wildlife Subcommittee that I chair has begun oversight of the process for assessing and repairing damage to natural resources and for holding BP and its partners financially responsible. As we seek to understand and document the damage that’s been done to the Gulf, much of which may not be evident until months or even years in the future, it is critical that the impacts of dispersants and dispersed oil are front and center. That is the only way we can be sure we will restore the health of the Gulf Coast region and a cherished way of life to its people.”
Senator Cardin’s full statement for the EPW hearing can be found here. http://www.cardin.senate.gov/news/testimonyrecord.cfm?id=326939&&