The Agent Orange of the BP Spill


Watergate, note many political historians, was not about the event but about the cover-up. And, as horrible as the Deepwater Horizon explosion was, we may discover that the resulting cover-up compounds the tragedy of the 11 deaths that came with the original event.

Now the EPA employee who exposed the government lies about air quality after the 9/11 attacks is saying the EPA is doing it again, focusing not just on the oil itself but also on the nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants used to hide the spill. In an interview on the Amy Goodman “Democracy Now” program (video here, Hugh Kaufman, a senior policy analyist at EPA, makes some of the strongest charges thus far about both the dispersant use and the strategy behind it. Dispersants, banned in other countries, are considered highly toxic.

“It’s unbelievable what’s going on,” says Kaufman. “It’s like deja vu all over again…We saw this on the Exxon Valdez. We saw this with Love Canal. We saw it with 911. How many times do we have to see this? There’s no way you can be working in that toxic soup without getting exposures.”

The plan, Kaufman says, was first to simply hide the oil – remember how BP didn’t want to release the video images? Without that footage, and injecting large quantities of dispersant directly at the well site, BP could have hidden the flow. That explains those ridiculously low-ball numbers in the early days. Failing that, the company began using aircraft to spray the dispersant.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski said during a hearing that she doesn’t want Corexit, the dispersant used here, to “become the Agent Orange” of the BP spill. Kaufman seems to think it already has.

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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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