For thousands of Coast Guard members who responded to the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the dangers were clear — an oil platform in flames and then a hole in the seafloor spewing millions of gallons of oil. But what made many Coast Guard members truly afraid was what came after.
As the agency worked to contain the spill, airplanes swooped in low, spraying a mysterious concoction of chemicals. These oil dispersants, BP hoped, would quickly cleanup its monumental mess.
“I can tell you Coast Guard members were terrified of the concept of dispersants,” said Rear Admiral Erica Schwartz, the Coast Guard’s director of health and safety.