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BP's next challenge: Disposal of tainted sludge (BP saying waste is not toxic) [View All]

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Robbien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jun-16-10 09:59 PM
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BP's next challenge: Disposal of tainted sludge (BP saying waste is not toxic)
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Oil giant BP is facing a huge new challenge in disposing of the millions of gallons of potentially toxic oil sludge its crews are collecting from the Gulf of Mexico, according to industry experts and veterans of past spills.

Crews so far have skimmed and sucked up 21.1 million gallons of oil mixed with water, according to the Deepwater Horizon Unified Command. Because the out-of-control well may continue spewing for months, that total almost certainly will surge.

BP's plan for handling the gooey mess, written in conjunction with the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana officials, calls for reclaiming or recycling as much as possible.

Some experts said that approach is the best option for the environment, but it has not worked in previous spills. It is not profitable to refine sludge that has mixed with water and seagoing debris because it can actually ruin refineries, they said.

"It has no longer got any economic value. It has to be disposed of as garbage," said Marc Jones, a former Navy officer who helped oversee numerous oil spill cleanups, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez in Alaska. "The stuff that got recovered from the Exxon Valdez was just a nightmare."

So far, BP has released little information about what it has done with the skimmed oil.

Mike Condon, BP's environmental division chief, said Wednesday that at least four barges filled with the waste had been shipped to disposal facilities in Texas and Alabama.

more . . .

one place receiving this stuff:

About 35,000 bags or 250 tons of oily trash have been carted away from this beach, said Lt. Patrick Hanley of the Coast Guard, who is stationed at Port Fourchon. And as of Monday, more than 175,000 gallons of liquid waste a combination of oil and water had been sent to landfills, as had 11,276 cubic yards of solid waste, said Petty Officer Gail Dale, also of the Coast Guard, who works with at the command center in Houma.

Michael Condon, BPs environmental unit leader, said that tests have shown that the material is not hazardous, and can safely be stored in landfills around the region that accept oil industry debris. The checklist and procedures involved, Mr. Condon said, are part of a process we do very well and have done for a long time.

But some local officials, environmental lawyers and residents who live near landfill sites are not convinced.

Theres no way that isnt toxic, said Gladstone Jones III, a New Orleans lawyer who has spent much of his career trying to get compensation for plaintiffs he says have been harmed by exposure to toxic waste.

In fact, waste from oil exploration and production falls into a regulatory no mans land, neither exactly benign nor toxic on its face. The compounds in oil most dangerous to human health like benzene, a carcinogen are volatile and tend to dissipate when crude oil reaches the ocean surface, or soon thereafter. But some toxicologists say it is impossible to know whether the toxic chemicals are entirely gone.

Marlin Ladner, a supervisor in Harrison County, Miss., spoke angrily about the prospect of debris from the spill being deposited in the local Pecan Grove landfill in his district.

His worry, he said, is that toxic material could leach into local aquifers from which more than 300 homes draw water.

BP oil is responsible for polluting our sand beaches and our estuaries, Mr. Ladner said.

Now, he added, They pick it up, put it on trucks, take it four or five miles north and dump it on us again.

more . . .

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