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On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency ordered BP to find a less toxic chemical to break up the oil than the one it has been using, Corexit 9500. The chemical has been rated more toxic and less effective than many others on the list of 18 EPA-approved dispersants, according to testimony at a congressional hearing Wednesday.
BP has found no immediate replacement candidate, Suttles said. "Our analysis that we submitted to EPA last night said there were no other dispersants we could identify that were available and less toxic," he said.
BP was to meet later Friday with the EPA to discuss alternatives, he said.
Among Corexit's competitors, a product called Dispersit far outpaced Corexit 9500, EPA test results show, rating nearly twice as effective and between half and a third as toxic, based on two tests performed on fish and shrimp.
Gebhardt says he could make 60,000 gallons a day of Dispersit to meet the needs of spill-containment efforts. Dispersit was formulated to outperform Corexit and got EPA approval 10 years ago.
"When we came out with a safer product, we thought people would jump on board," he said. "That's not the case. We were never able to move anyone of any size off the Corexit product."
He added, "We're just up against a giant."
Also on Saturday, BP told federal regulators it plans to stick with the main chemical dispersant it's been spraying in the open Gulf to break up oil before it reaches the surface. The Environmental Protection Agency had directed the company to look for less toxic alternatives. But BP said in a letter to the EPA that Corexit 9500, one of the chief agents used, "remains the best option for subsea application."