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In some situations the use of dispersants to control marine oil spills is environmentally desirable and is an accepted practice in many areas of the world. In the United States the use of dispersants has historically (1967) been discouraged by Federal regulation, due primarily to the early concern over the use of some toxic dispersants. Since 1967 it has become very apparent that the use of low-toxicity dispersants to control oil spills may be the most environmentally sound control approach in offshore areas, particularly when an oil spill may approach a sensitive coastline. A task force was appointed over a year ago by the American Petroleum Institute to make recommendations on the utilization of dispersants based on studies of current information on dispersants and mechanical recovery equipment. The task force believes that the use of low-toxicity dispersants should be encouraged where it is justified, specifically when it would be the most effective and biologically sound method of controlling an offshore oil spill. For this reason the National Contingency Plan should be revised so that the responsible on-scene coordinator (OSC) has authority over the use of dispersants. The OSC should be able to decide to use dispersants, as part of preplanned contingency plan implementations, to control offshore oil spills that threaten to move into sensitive environmental areas.
dispersants, oils, oil spill cleanup, dispersant spraying (aircraft, marine vessel, hand), Annex X National Contingency Plan
Senior staff engineer, Shell Oil Company, Houston, Tex.