The mystery of the vanishing oil spill


The Times seems stumped. Maybe the Hardy Boys should be on the case.

I clicked on the New York Times link this morning and there it was — “On the Surface, Gulf Oil Spill Is Vanishing Fast; Concerns Stay” — the big story that was going to alert readers to the fact that some chemical dispersants used to break up oil slicks on the Gulf of Mexico are highly toxic and ultimately might do more harm than good.

But the reporters made only a passing glance at this concern, in the story’s eighth paragraph, and focused instead on how rapidly the visible evidence of the BP oil disaster is dissipating. Their story didn’t explicitly declare the recent clean-up effort a success. It mentioned “scientific uncertainties associated with the spill.” But the reporters, or their editor, glossed over the possible environmental impact of the dispersants. Arguably, their story was as misleading as one of those public relations dispatches from BP back in the spring.

Maybe the reporters were stumped because of all the bad information BP has spread around. They might at least have mentioned Corexit, the extremely toxic chemical used in the oil dispersal effort, and they could have consulted insiders who are more than just vaguely skeptical about the safety of humans and other creatures exposed to in some way to the almost two million gallons of Corexit that has been poured into the Gulf.

Maybe reporters at The Times are working on the big story this very minute, but I got the impression from today’s dispatch that the Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe, might do a better job just by doing the detective work some of us remember from books we read back in grade school. I can see the Hardy Boys out there on the gulf:

Frank steered the motorboat in a wide arc and said he wanted to take another look at the site where the mile-long oil slick had been sprayed with Corexit and then vanished.
“Why?” Joe asked in surprise.
“Because this is the same thing that oil cleanup guy told us happened to that three-mile slick the other day after it was sprayed with Corexit,” Frank replied.
“Yes, I remember him,” Joe said. “The one who can’t breathe anymore.”
Excitedly, the brothers speculated on the possible connection between the two sprayings. Then the brothers each put on the respirators they had brought with them and began to look for clues…

Follow-up: A little late and not prominent enough, but the online Times has posted an update about legislative efforts to make the EPA set minimum toxicity standards for dispersants.

Follow-up to July 14 post: President Obama never did get around to making a statement on the possible need for respirators by all workers in the vicinity of the cleanup.
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