Lawsuit targets BP's use of Corexit dispersant; attorney alleges chemical used in off-limits areas
Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010, 5:58 PM Updated: Tuesday, July 27, 2010, 11:58 PM
View full size(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)MOBILE, Ala. -- BP PLC has used the chemical dispersant Corexit near the shores of Alabama and other coastal areas that it has said are off-limits, a Montgomery lawyer said today.
"I think they are going more inland now than what they are publicly acknowledging," said Rhon Jones, who represents a pair of south Alabama residents who filed a federal lawsuit in Mobile this week against BP.
BP spokesman Ray Melick said no dispersant has been used in state waters.
"If they've got evidence, they've got to bring it out, because we keep hearing this," he said.
According to the Joint Information Center at the Unified Area Command in New Orleans, BP has sprayed 1,072,514 gallons of dispersant on the surface of the water and another 771,272 gallons underneath the water at the site of the damaged well.
Officials said dispersant cannot be used within 3 miles of the shore and has not been used anywhere at all since Tropical Storm Bonnie blew through last week.
Read the complete legal complaint
In the lawsuit, which also names Corexit manufacturer Nalco Co., Janille Turner and Glynis H. Wright seek to represent all Gulf Coast residents who live, travel or work in the area who "will suffer and have suffered the deleterious effects" of the dispersant.
Jones, head of environmental law at Beasley Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles in Montgomery, said this is the 12th lawsuit his firm has filed over the oil spill caused by the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed overall, but this is one of a small number that specifically targets the use of Corexit.
"This much dispersant has never been used before," he said.
Attorneys for the firm said that Turner, a Coden resident who owns the Topless Oyster Raw Bar & Grill, and Wright, an Orange Beach resident who does interior design work, both started suffering severe respiratory and gastrointestinal problems shortly after the spill.
"You almost feel like you have a really severe cold that doesn't go away," said Parker Miller, an attorney on the case.
Miller said the firm bases its allegation that BP is using the Corexit close to shore on accounts from Gulf residents who say they have heard and seen the planes at night and by the fact that his clients and their neighbors have reported sudden illnesses.
Miller said he does not think either of his clients came into contact with the water.
"We believe it's in the air," he said.
The Environmental Protection Agency has said that air quality testing along the Gulf Coast has not detected the presence of pollution that would cause long-term health problems. According the Alabama Department of Public Health, at least 114 people have gone to local emergency rooms, clinics and urgent care centers since May 14 complaining of ailments thought to be related to the oil spill.