Engineering lab finds dispersant in Biloxi water


BILOXI — A Boston-based engineering company, hired by a New Orleans law firm to take samplings in Gulf waters, recently found high concentrations of dispersant near an oil patch between Horn Island and Biloxi.

Boston Chemical Data Corp. President Marco Kaltofen said his group was collecting samples Aug. 9 at Horn Island when they came across a brown, foamy material near an iridescent sheen of oil. The team a detected chemical odor, he said.

“We certainly didn’t expect to find dispersant in that area,” Kaltofen said.

He said he was under the impression BP had stopped using dispersant in the waters in July, but his team found significant chemical concentrations of 780 parts per billion.

The sample, sent to a lab in Colorado, tested positive for three main ingredients in the dispersants used in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Kaltofen said.

Kaltofen said his company was hired by oil-spill attorneys from law firm Smith Stag LLC, and started collecting samples in May.

The company has collected about 250 samples along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Louisiana, but the sample in Biloxi was the first to contain such a high level of dispersant, he said.

Bill Walker, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, said dispersants used by BP in the oil-spill response were to be used only at the well site.

He is unsure where the chemicals came from. He said he was unfamiliar with what the engineering firm found, but that dispersants’ chemical ingredients could be used in other compounds.

Robbie Wilbur, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said DEQ has been collecting and analyzing water samples from the Mississippi Sound but did not test that particular location on that particular day.

DEQ has not found detectable levels of dispersant components above the reporting limit, he said.

Wilbur said DEQ could not comment on the findings from Boston Chemical Data Corp. due to lack of information.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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