Federal Judge Rules Against EPA Mining Restrictions

This week, a federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its administrator, Lisa Jackson, and in favor of the state of West Virginia and the National Mining Association. The judge decided that the EPA illegally overstepped its authority by creating and enforcing water quality restrictions on West Virginia coal mining operations, and that the EPA should have left these decisions to state officials.

Mountaintop removal coal mining operations – a form of surface mining that gathers coal from the summit of mountains – commonly dump waste water into waterways in the Appalachian valleys. The polluted water disrupts biodiversity in streams and can pose a health risk to people who live in the area. EPA regulations prohibited the mining industry from disposing of the waste water if doing so would violates state water quality standards or greatly degrade national waterways, or if the process could be replaced with a viable, eco-friendly alternative.

Mountaintop removal mining in itself is controversial, as scientists and experts have concluded that it is environmentally disruptive and a risk to public health. In order to mine the coal, the land around the area has to be deforested and is often never restored or reforested to its natural appearance.

The move by United States District Judge Reggie B. Walton disappointed environmental activists, but was lauded by the mining industry, West Virginia state officials – including the state’s environmental protection secretary, Randy Huffman, and its former Democratic governor and current United States senator, Joe Manchin– and Democratic Kentucky governor Steve Beshear. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claimed that the new regulations worsened the economy by eliminating jobs from the mining industry.

Coal has long been among the country’s most popular source of inexpensive energy, but it is notorious to environmental and health advocates for producing soot and ash, which can damage the environment and can result in serious health complications in children and adults (such as asthma or other respiratory illnesses). The federal government has been attempting to regulate mountaintop removal coal mining operations in three high-producing states (West Virginia, Wyoming, and Kentucky) but has not been successful in enforcing these regulations or agreeing on a mutual plan of action with the mining industry.

Judge Walton recognized the need for environmentalists and miners to compromise, but implied that this issue should be worked out between the two parties by saying, “How to best strike a balance between, on the one hand, the need to preserve the verdant landscapes and natural resources of Appalachia and, on the other hand, the economic role that coal mining plays in the region is not, however, a question for the Court to decide.”

The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy’s Mining Committee’s chair, Cindy Rank, said that the ruling “continues to put us living in Appalachia in the unconscionable position of having to document our own communities’ sickness, disease and other unexplained health impacts as reasons to finally stop the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.”

The State Journal, a West Virginia business newspaper, reported last week that the coal mining regulations rallied West Virginians who were for and against the EPA’s laws in separate protests. Coal mining advocates congregated to express concern over how the new laws would affect the local economy, citing statistics that 2,000 coal miners have been laid off as a result of the federal government’s attempt to regulate and reduce mountaintop removal coal mining.

Opponents of coal mining also planned to assemble at a mountaintop mine to raise awareness of how the practices employed in coal mining can harm public health and safety, and to encourage people to take action on the issue.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/docsearls/7012172049

Nitrate Contamination of Groundwater Much Cause for Concern

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis have found troubling data indicating severe nitrate contamination of groundwater in farming communities in Central California.

Researchers have found that around 10% of the 2.6 million people residing in the Salinas Valley and Tulare Lake Basin might be drinking nitrate contaminated water.  And the researchers warn that if nothing is done 80% of residents will face health and financial risks stemming from the contamination.

Nitrate contamination can cause a slew of health problems including birth defects, hair loss, skin rashes, stomach and gastrointestinal cancer, and thyroid cancer.  Nitrate contamination has also been linked to blue-baby syndrome (also referred to as methemoglobinemia), a blood disorder found in infants six months of age or younger.  Blue-baby syndrome prevents blood cells from absorbing oxygen and can be fatal if not treated.

Nitrates form when nitrogen from ammonia reacts with water.  Common sources of nitrates include the use and production of fertilizers and the burning of fossil fuels.  Not surprisingly, agriculture is the biggest contributor to the nitrate contamination problem.  For example, the U.C. Davis study found that 96% of nitrate contamination came from agriculture, whereas only 4% was found to come from food processing, landscaping, septic systems, and water treatment plants among other sources.

Angela Schroeter, agricultural regulatory program manager for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, warns that the problem is more severe than previously thought.  Nitrate contamination will not only affect people’s health, but will also exact a heavy financial toll on citizens.  Researchers predict that residents and utilities will pay $20 million to $36 million per year towards water treatment and alternative sources of water for the next 20 years and counting.

What is even more disturbing is that current nitrate contamination of groundwater most likely occurred decades ago, which signifies that even if contamination were to be reduced, groundwater would still remain polluted for years to come.  In addition, removal of nitrates from groundwater is no easy process and is also very expensive.  One solution, called “pump and fertilize” requires pulling nitrate-saturated water out of the ground and applying it to crops at a specific time to achieve complete nitrate uptake.  Other solutions include placing a fee on fertilizer sales and increasing “mill fees” on fertilizer production.  To learn more and to see how you can help, please visit http://www.wri.org.

Photo credit: peakwater.org/tag/water-pollution/

China’s Water Scarcity Crisis

China is currently dealing with water scarcity due to heavy water pollution.  China has many water resources, but much of the water in China is not available.  Sadly, all of China’s water bodies are polluted, including the country’s seven major watersheds: Chang (Yangtze), Hai, Huai, Huang (Yellow), Liao, Songhua, and Zhu (Pearl).  The pollution has arose mainly due to agricultural and industrial waste, with much of the water in China containing traditional pollutants such as excreta, but also modern pollutants from toxic substances. 

China is considered to be a rapidly industrializing developing nation.  However, with the increase of industry comes a heavy price – air and water pollution.  China is now dealing with the consequences of poorly monitored industrial practices which has led to recent spills and contamination.  For instance, in 2010, an explosion at a petrochemical plant released pollutants containing Benzene into the Songhua River affecting cities such as Harbin, which has a population of 3.4 billion. 

In addition, just recently on January 31, 2012, Chinese officials detained 7 company executives after tons of industrial waste was dumped into a river in Hechi city, sparking fear and unrest among citizens in both Hechi and neighboring Liujiang city.  One of the suspected companies, Jinhe Mining Co. has been accused of dumping cadmium – a  known carcinogen which can cause serious injury to bones, kidney, and lungs- into the river during a spill on January 15, 2012. According to the China Daily, Chinese officials have decided to inspect around a dozen factories that line the river and have also decided to stop production at 7 different plants.

The initial spill occurred in Hechi city but is now moving downstream toward Liujiang city, endangering drinking water for 1.5 million people.  The polluted water is also feared to be approaching Liuzhou city, which has a population of 3.7 million people.  It has been reported that shopkeepers in Liuzhou city have been selling large amounts of bottled water due to fear over the safety of available drinking water.

Chinese authorities have ordered thousands of soldiers to dump aluminum chloride into the river to dilute the cadmium. However, the spill is so severe that levels of cadmium were still 25 times higher than the official limit in some parts of the river.  Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, has expressed alarm over these recent reports, stating that cadmium – which can be found in batteries, cement, and fertilizers – can be hard to dissolve naturally and is highly toxic.  Ma Jun fears that the pollution may be hard to get rid of and may persist for a long time.

As noted above, this is not the first time that faulty industrial practices have led to the pollution of many of China’s waterways.  Environmental activists are blaming Chinese officials for often turning a blind eye to harmful industrial practices in the pursuit of economic development.  In addition, activists have blamed local officials for poor supervision, which they claim led to the occurrence of the recent pollution in Hechi. 

Due to severe water pollution, China now faces extreme water shortages, with 300 out of the 640 major cities in China facing water shortages.  Another major threat to water quality arise from inadequate treatment of municipal and industrial wastewater.  For instance, in 1995, 37.29 billion cubic tons of wastewater was dumped into lakes, reservoirs, and rivers.  60% of the wastewater came from industries and only 77% of this wastewater was treated. Furthermore, in 1995, half of the industrial wastewater that was discharged into China’s waterways did not met government standards. Thus, a leading problem in China’s water scarcity crisis is inadequate wastewater and sewage treatment, along with lax regulations and monitoring of agricultural and industrial practices.

To learn more and to help make a difference on China’s water scarcity crisis, please visit http://pacificenvironment.org/section.php?id=183.

Photo credit: upstrm.wordpress.com/category/hydraulic-fracturing-2/

Meat Packing Plant Under Investigation for Dumping Pig Blood into Nearby Creek

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and Texas Parks and Wildlife are opening a criminal investigation to look into whether a Dallas meat packing plant was dumping its waste water into a local creek.  The criminal investigation ensued after images, taken from an unmanned-aerial-vehicle (UAV) pilot, showed the creek behind the meat packing plant filled with blood.  

The amateur pilot had been flying his UAV below the designated four hundred feet while taking pictures of the surrounding area.  After reviewing the images, the pilot – who wishes to remain anonymous – noticed the contamination and contacted local environmental agencies and the Coast Guard.  His courage in coming forward to report the contamination has led to a two month investigation and the execution of a search warrant.

The meat packing plant is run by the Columbia Packing Company, which issued a statement declaring surprise and unawareness over the allegations.  However, according to the Dallas County Health and Human Services and the search warrant, pig blood was being swept into  the creek located behind the meat packing plant through an underground pipe. Furthermore, authorities, who have tested the waters in the back of the meat packing plant, have indeed found large amounts of pig blood in the water.  What’s even more disturbing is that investigators also found byproducts, contaminants, waste products, and other toxic wastes related to animal processing.  This has led to much concern because the underground pipe is not linked to a waste water system and the  creek flows directly into the Trinity River.

The contamination of our water sources from disease-causing agents found in blood, can lead to the spread of human illnesses.  The risk of infection from bacteria, parasitic worms, protozoa, and viruses increase when our water sources are contaminated from pollution coming from agriculture, factories, and sewage treatment plants.  In this case, swimmers and kayakers are at risk given that a portion of the Trinity River has been a popular place for kayakers.

The recent news has sparked debate over whether aerial drones should be used to monitor such operations.  Currently, it is illegal in the United States to operate drones commercially.  However, model aircrafts can be flown at or below elevations of 400 feet, and government and law enforcement agencies can acquire licenses to operate aircrafts at higher altitudes.

In addition, stricter enforcement of laws and regulations can prevent future pollution of water sources.  To some, this recent occurrence of water contamination is a bit odd, given that there are strong regulations in place to prevent this kind of pollution from occurring.  However, others, such as Zach Trahan, program director for the non-profit, Texas Campaign for the Environment,  blame companies for violating environmental laws.  He further stated that some companies have a “go take it back out attitude” in some some areas of Texas.  Whatever the reason may be for why or how this latest pollution occurred, it is important for companies to prioritize the prevention of pollution.  If companies made it a priority to prevent pollution, environmental damage and the costs associated with environmental damage could be avoided. 

Photo credit: liverpool.nsw.gov.au/LCC/INTERNET/me.get?site.sectionshow&PAGE1230&BODY

Investigation Launched Into Brazilian Oil Spill


Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff released a statement asking for an investigation into the recent oil spill near an expansive deepwater drilling project by Chevron. Rouseff called for an extensive inquiry into the possible causes and responsibility for an oil spill that was detected on Thursday, November 10th.

Chevron, one of six major worldwide oil companies, sent out an email before the presidential statement stating that oil sheen was viewed off the coast near Chevron Brazil’s Frade project, a deepwater drilling project. The sheen, caused by oil settling atop the water that appears to shimmer, is projected to range between 400 and 650 barrels, or about 16,800 – 27,300 gallons of gasoline. The sheen is in the Campos basis 230 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. 

Chevron’s own investigations utilizing underwater vehicles revealed a seep, an opening from which hydrocarbons are naturally released from underground. Chevron closed a well near the seeps and is still investigation their cause. Chevron was quick to notify authorities and relevant government agencies of the spill and pledged to work rapidly to minimize any potential environmental effects. 

In the wake of last year’s BP oil spill, oil companies and governments are reacting much more quickly and aggressively to prevent or contain possible oil spills. Though this recent Brazilian oil spill falls extremely short of the extent of last year’s spill, officials are taking no chances. Brazil is currently undertaking a massive deep sea oil plan that would substantially increase its current output of 2 million barrels a day. 

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California EPA Sets Stricter Limit For Hexavalent Chromium

Made infamous by the activist Erin Brockovich and the film produced about her, the heavy metal hexavalent chromium will now be receiving a little more attention. Also, known as Chromium 6, the California EPA have set limits on the arguably cancer causing chemical found in water within the state.

On Wednesday, the California EPA imposed a statewide limit of chromium 6 of 0.02 parts per billion, the maximum amount of the chemical before it is considered to be a significant health risk. Current federal regulations limit chromium, both chromium 6 and chromium 3, to 100 ppb in water, but there are no regulations on chromium 6 itself. Chromium 3 is non-toxic and is important to glucose metabolism of the body.

Chromium 6, however, is a rather toxic substance. It is commonly discharged as waste by steel and pulp mills and also used in metal-plating and leather-tanning factories.

As the only state in the nation to require testing, California originally proposed a public health goal (PHG) for chromium 6 of 0.06 parts per billion in 2009. According to Environmental Working Group, a non profit organization in Oakland, chromium 6 is present in tap water in 31 of 35 cities tested by the group. Riverside had chromium 6 levels of 1.69 ppb and San Jose 1.34 ppb. Other cities around the U.S. of much concern include Norman, Oklahoma with 12.9 ppb, Honolulu, Hawaii with 2.00 ppb, and Madison, Wisconsin with 1.58 ppb chromium 6. The EWG also reports that more than 74 million people in 42 states drink water “most likely” tainted with chromium 6.

Limits for chromium 6 in drinking water have met many obstacles over the years. The Department of Public Health mandated a standard be set by 2004, but many demanded more credible scientific evidence that chromium 6 posed a health risk.

The new limit came after years of scientific research and efforts from activists like Brockovich. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) performed a two year study that showed water tainted with high levels chromium 6 caused malignant tumors in lab animals. The rats and mice, both male and female, were given water containing differing levels of chromium 6. The lowest of these doses contained ten times more chromium 6 than the most contaminated water recorded in California.

Scientists that conducted the study reported that the lab animals developed tumors in places they would rarely develop tumors. Rats developed numerous malignant tumors in their oral cavity and mice developed both benign and malignant tumors in the small intestine. The number of tumors increased with higher levels of chromium 6.

Arguably the most influential in bringing attention to chromium 6 was the film “Erin Brockovich”. Claiming the movie was 98% accurate, Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts, stumbles upon documents about Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) knowingly contaminating groundwater in the town of Hinkley, California. The movie also portrays the health conditions those who worked in the contaminated water developed and suffered from. Also, the movie claims that exposure to chromium 6 will result in the development of cancer. After enough evidence was gathered, a judge ordered PG&E to pay out $333 million divided among 648 plaintiffs.

However, some people believe the film exaggerated the health risks of being exposed to chromium 6. It was reported that from 1988 to 2008, California Cancer Registry performed studies that showed cancer rates remained nearly constant throughout this time period in the cities surveyed, including Hinkley.

This new goal set by the California EPA is the first step in the battle against chromium 6 contaminating the nation’s water resources. Testing and monitoring of the chemical is largely unregulated even though it poses some health concerns. Whether or not it causes cancer, it is a little more reassuring to limit levels of chromium 6 and other pollutants in drinking water, rather than try to prove these industrial chemicals do not cause cancer. As the saying goes, better safe than sorry.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/publicresourceorg/494054684

Recovery Plan Announced For Yellowstone River Oil Spill

Exxon Mobil, the corporation responsible for the Yellowstone River oil spill earlier this month, has announced plans to drain the remaining oil from the failed pipeline that caused the spill.

The oil spill happened on the night of July 1st, when a faulty pipeline owned by Exxon Mobil ruptured near Laurel, Montana, in the Yellowstone River. The spill leaked an estimated 1,000 barrels of oil into the river in the span of half an hour. Fearing a possible explosion, officials in Laurel evacuated approximately 140 people before allowing them to return several hours later. The cause of the pipeline’s failure has yet to be exactly determined. The fire chief in Laurel has speculated that high water eroded part of the river bed, exposing the pipeline to debris and ultimately causing it to rupture. In the wake of the spill, Exxon Mobil issued a statement saying the corporation “deeply regrets this release and is working hard with local emergency authorities to mitigate the impacts of this release on the surrounding communities and to the environment.”

A spokesperson for Exxon Mobil has since announced that the oil that was spilled has been contained within 10 miles of the original spill site, a claim that has been disputed by the government of Montana. Out of the estimated 1,000 barrels of oil spilled, only 9 barrels have been recovered so far. The EPA does not expect that number to rise, as it will be difficult to recover any more oil. Instead, cleanup and recovery efforts are being focused on the shoreline in an effort to minimize damage to the ecosystem. This week, representatives from the EPA will begin searching the river for any remaining oil.

Exxon Mobil has submitted a cleanup plan to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan is being reviewed in order to make sure it adheres to cleanup standards imposed by the state. State cleanup standards are stricter than standards imposed by the federal government. The EPA has given Exxon Mobil a timeline of less than two months to finish cleanup: all oil must be removed and all affected areas of shoreline must be recovered by September 9th.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has confirmed that the oil spill has claimed the lives of a fish and a duck. In addition, several animals that were covered with oil have been captured for rehabilitation. Other animals with smaller amounts of oil on them have been spotted but have remained in their own habitat.

In terms of human health, health officials in Yellowstone County have announced that twenty people have reported health concerns, most of which were caused by inhaling fumes given off by the oil. No one has been hospitalized, and the concern for public health is low as the fumes have considerably lessened.

Almost two weeks after the incident, the corporation has announced its plans to drain any remaining oil left in the faulty pipeline. It is unclear how much oil remains in the 1,600 foot section of 12-inch pipeline. The oil will be suctioned out using vacuum trucks. Draining could begin as early as this weekend and will take several days to complete.

A meeting, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, was held near the site of the spill and was attended by approximately 100 people. Residents of the affected area are concerned about the effects of oil on their land and have not yet determined when they will be able to start using the land again. A representative from the EPA has announced that soil along the banks of the river will be tested and that the results should be ready within a week.

Photo Credit: nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/water/creeksstreamsrivers/yelllaked/Images/17562.jpg

Mine Cleanup Efforts Hampered by EPA Loophole

Across the US, abandoned mines languish awaiting cleanup efforts – up to 500,000 of them. An estimated 40% of Western rivers are tainted with the toxic discharge of these sites. There are at least 7,300 abandoned mines across the state of Colorado alone. 450 of these are already known to be leeching toxins into surrounding watersheds, but no one has yet stepped up to make any cleanup effort.

Why? According a recent Denver Post article, community groups, mining companies, and even state agencies claim that by attempting cleanup they may incur legal liability under the Clean Water Act if they accidentally worsen the contamination — they fear they could be subject to federal prosecution for polluting waterways without a permit. Reassurances by the EPA that “good Samaritan” groups will be partially shielded from liability have done nothing to ease these worries. Without formal legislation offering protection, few will risk going forward with cleanup efforts.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources estimates 1,300 miles of streams in the state are already known to contain measurable amounts of toxic substances. Some have even been declared “biologically dead” due to the extent of the pollution, and more sites risk becoming too contaminated to support life the longer cleanup is delayed.

The main danger posed to these waterways is due to Acid Mine Drainage, or AMD. Sulfuric acid forms when the sulphides in rocks are exposed to water and air in the open mine shafts, and along with microbial activity, it works to dissolve heavy metals and toxins such as cadmium, copper, arsenic, cobalt, lead, and zinc. Among the effects of these chemicals are possible cancers, organ and nerve damage, and gastrointestinal problems. This toxic brew seeps into groundwater or is carried away in snowmelt, poisoning aquatic life and contaminating drinking water and agricultural water supplies. This natural leeching process can continue for hundreds, or even thousands of years, unless efforts are made to combat it.

This is not the only danger posed by these mines. Powerful chemical agents, such as cyanide, are used during the mining process itself to separate the minerals and ore, and these chemicals can spill or leak from the mine into nearby water supplies. Erosion of the exposed earth in these mines can smother vegetation, destroy habitat, and clog riverbeds. The location of many mines in arid states also raises a possibility of air pollution due to dust.

The Obama administration and Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, have promised action to break the gridlock and protect good Samaritans, as well as devote resources to watershed restoration projects, but two years after these promises, little progress has been made. Colorado lawmakers have not had luck persuading Congress to pass legislation on the issue.

Even as this crisis mounts, the mining industry and local economic development groups are pushing to open new mines in areas already suffering from pollution. In Colorado, this contentious issue revolves mostly around proposed Uranium mines. Unfortunately, in many towns, mining offers a more lucrative alternative to the jobs currently available – mainly involving retail work. While legislation from the 1970s prohibits companies from abandoning new mines, the environmental impact of new sites is not negligible, especially when extracting radioactive substances.

Eastern states are not immune to the issue of abandoned mine shafts either, of course – old mines, mainly coal, stretch from Florida to New York, concentrated in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. Water contamination itself has been documented in all 50 states.

To learn more about abandoned mines in your state, cleanup efforts, and basic safety precautions you can take, visit http://www.abandonedmines.gov. Your state’s natural resources agency can give you information about water quality in your area, and you can search for known polluters in your area using an interactive feature from the New York Times.

Photo credit: abandonedmines.gov/ep.html

Toxic Oil Dispersants Linger in Gulf of Mexico

February 2, 2011- Nick Engelfried

Soon after oil started gushing from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, BP and the US Coast Guard began injecting thousands of gallons of chemical dispersants into the affected area in an effort to break up toxic oil plumes.  However these synthetic compounds came with their own environmental impacts, many of which remain not fully known.  Now new evidence suggests dispersants that were supposed to soon break down and disappear in fact remained in the Gulf waters at least until last September.

The main dispersant used on the BP spill is Corexit, a chemical manufactured by the Naco Holding Company (NHC).  This Illinois-based company has financial ties to BP itself, and BP has consistently insisted on using NHC’s product rather than other types of dispersants.  For months scientists were prevented from adequately predicting the effects of Corexit on the environment because the exact composition of the compound is a trade secret of NHC.  Bowing to environmental concerns, in May of 2010 the US Environmental Protection Agency ordered BP to greatly reduce the frequency with which Corexit was used and to find less toxic alternatives.

Despite the EPA directive, BP kept applying Corexit heavily with the Coast Guard’s blessing.  According to US Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), BP continued using between 6,000 and 10,000 gallons of Corexit on the Gulf of Mexico every day even after the mandate to reduce its application.  The Coast Guard did not object to the practice and in fact authorized it.  In all about 800,000 gallons of Corexit were used on the BP spill in the spring and summer of last year. 

To determine whether or not Corexit was lingering in the environment, researchers form the University of California at Santa Barbara sampled the waters around the BP oil spill for a period of time between May and September of 2010.  The scientists tested water samples for the chemical DOSS, an active ingredient in Corexit.  They detected DOSS in the oil plume throughout the duration of the study, and found it had not broken down as rapidly as hoped. 

In laboratory tests Corexit has been judged dangerous to humans and other organisms.  Exposure to Corexit can result in liver and kidney damage as well as nervous system depression.  Safer dispersants on the market include Dispersit, a water-based compound produced by the company Polychem.  As part of its May directive the EPA instructed BP to consider using a safer product like Dispersit, but the oil company declined to do so. 

The active ingredients in Corexit may not have broken down as BP predicted they would, but one thing the dispersant succeeded in doing was causing oil plumes to sink near the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.  This likely prevented more oil from washing up on coastlines, but is not necessarily good news for marine organisms.  In fact some scientists worry Corexit may simply have guided vast quantities of oil into deepwater habitats that are now being exposed to the toxic effects.  Fish and invertebrates of the deep ocean are often exquisitely adapted to a very specific environment, making them especially vulnerable to disturbance.  The full impacts of oil on the deep waters of the Gulf are not completely known at this point, but last November researchers discovered a mass die-off of deep sea coral caused by sinking oil plumes. 

In fact it will probably by months or years before the full effects of dispersants on the BP oil spill are fully understood.  New findings are likely to emerge surrounding the effects of Corexit and sinking oil plumes on marine life and the undersea environment.  However the most recent research shows active ingredients in oil dispersants may remain in the water for much longer than realized, calling into question what unintended consequences their use will have on the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal economies which depend on it.

Photo credit: Jim Greenhill