Rally in Seattle to Focus on Keeping Toxic Oil Dispersants Out of Salish Sea

Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary
Image via Salish Sea Marine Sanctuary.

Commercial fishermen, environmentalists and Native American entities concerned about toxics in the Salish Sea plan to rally outside the Gates Foundation in Seattle at noon on Thursday, Jan. 20, to voice concerns over the use of Corexit dispersants for oil spill response.

Their goal, according to rally co-organizer Riki Ott, is to encourage the manufacturer, Nalco, to stop producing these dispersants and instead use the ingredients as feed stock for other products.

Ott said that Washington, like every other coastal state, stockpiles Corexit dispersants for oil spill response and pre-authorizes dispersant use. The product is toxic to orcas, salmon, herring and communities that depend on the vitality and bounty of the sea, she said.

Ott is the director of the environmental organization ALERT, which focuses on the risk to communities from common oil and oil-based chemicals dispersed to clean up oil spills and other disasters. Ott said that Bill and Melinda Gates are the largest individual shareholders of Ecolab, the parent company of Nalco, which manufactures toxic Corexit oil dispersants.

The federal government currently sanctions use of Corexit dispersants in its national oil spill response plan. The federal government is also, according to ALERT, the largest owner of Corexit dispersant stockpiles, purchased at taxpayers’ expense.

In response to the accusations, Ecolab spokesman Roman Blahoski told Fishermen’s News that the company “is committed to operating sustainably and with care for the environment.”

“Ecolab acquired Nalco in December 2011 and diverted the oil dispersant business in June 2020,” Blahoski explained. “Ecolab and its subsidiary Nalco Water no longer manufacture oil dispersants.”

The group said that during the rally, it will seek to have Bill and Melinda Gates or their representatives use their power as public influencers and shareholders of Ecolab to help stop the manufacture of Corexit dispersants, stop their use and safely destroy existing stockpiles. They also plan to deliver ALERT’s formal petition, asking the same of the Gates Foundation.

The planned rally is part of a larger ALERT campaign to ban Corexit dispersants with a goal of safeguarding the Salish Sea ecosystem.

Efforts addressing the current environmental challenges in the Salish Sea to orcas and salmon are already underway in Washington state and British Columbia, in hope of providing increased food sources and improved habitat and boost the health and numbers of those species.