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Gulf of Mexico Oil Cleanup

Gulf of Mexico Oil Clean Up

Material Characterization

On July 15, EPA senior leadership conducted a public conference call to brief one of its advisory committees (the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council) and 300 members of the public on its procedures in response to the BP oil spill.  They said the following:

Mathy Stanislaus, head of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, stated that EPA and the Coast Guard have reviewed all applicable state regulations, the plans for waste characterization, community outreach, and the disposal sites EPA has individually reviewed for acceptance of oil spill wastes.  The disposal sites have been reviewed for compliance history and for environmental justice concerns. 

Beth Craig, deputy head of the EPA Air Office, said that extensive monitoring throughout the stages of waste cleanup and spill response has shown no chemicals in the atmosphere that would cause long-term health concerns, although more sensitive individuals have experienced eye irritation.  All chemicals detected have been at very low levels and for short periods of time. 

Mathy Stanislaus stated that all disposal sites are posted on the web sites and that he personally had visited every proposed disposal site and staging area to review the adequacy of operations.  He also said EPA continues to post all monitoring data.  No waivers from any environmental standards had been requested by BP or its contractors, and obviously none had been granted.

The applicable disposal statute, RCRA, defines very clearly what it hazardous and what is non-hazardous waste.  The June 29 Spill Response directive required BP to develop within 5 days and for review by EPA and the affected states a response plan setting out the protocols for testing disposal materials to assure they are not hazardous (as defined by specific RCRA regulations) and are properly disposed at the solid waste landfills EPA had reviewed and cleared as appropriate for handling these spill-related materials.  The plans include description of how and how often they are testing the material, tracking, communications to the local communities to inform them, and public posting of testing information.  EPA's directive is consistent with but goes beyond RCRA requirements to assure compliance and provide additional information to the public.

EPA provides an environmental hotline (866-448-5816) for use by the public seeking further information.

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