Alaska Adopts New Rules for Dispersant Use in Oil Spills
Alaska oil spill responders have adopted new rules for the rapid use of chemical dispersant but say dispersant will continue to be considered only rarely when mechanical cleanup is not practical.
Chemical dispersant has been used on an oil spill just once in Alaska in the last 40 years—in tests during the 11-million-gallon crude oil spill that followed the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker. The preferred method of cleanup is mechanical, usually using boom to corral oil and skimmers to lift it from the water.
The plan sets up one “preauthorization zone” that would allow a federal on-scene coordinator to authorize mobilization of dispersant and the elaborate gear needed to spread it. A final decision on actually using dispersant would be made after consultation with wildlife experts, tests of the dispersant and other steps.