Nungesser frustrated over oil clean upJan 11th, 2011 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
A look at Bay Jimmy eight months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill reveals dead grass and reeds, matted down in muddy oil, receding the edge of the marshes about 50 feet; tiny paw prints leave iridescent indentations on the ground.
A tour of the bay, one of the hardest hit spots by the spill in Southeastern Louisiana, for different media organizations was led by Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, on Jan. 7.
The visit was supposed to shed light on the ongoing oil spill crisis, as the general tenor found in the media is that the disaster is over, said Barham.
While cleanup efforts employed some 400-500 Plaquemines Parish residents over the summer, in the fall DRC Group discharged everyone.
DRC Group, a disaster response corporation with offices around the globe, was chosen by BP to orchestrate the oil spill clean-up efforts in Plaquemines Parish; according to Paula Pendarvis, a DRC press representative, as of Jan. 3 they are not doing cleanup work in the parish. Nungesser said his frustration is that now the cleanup has come to a standstill.
Who is working are “state trustees,” Coast Guard Commander Dan Lauer said.
Made up of both private and governmental members including the Coast Guard, BP, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, FBI, OCPR, DEQ, among several others, state trustees determine the course of action for Louisiana’s coast, but must come to unanimous agreement to move forward, Lauer said.
Nungesser said his frustration is that how the cleanup has come to a standstill.
His frustration boiled over at one point during the tour when he cornered Lauer about Plaquemines’ say in the method and timeline in which the clean up of the marshes proceeds.
“You give me the money, let me put the plan together, then you can blame me,” said Nungesser. “But don’t tell me I have a voice in the way you put together that crappy document that ain’t worth the paper its written on.
“You song and dance and you cover up for BP,” Nungesser yelled as he wore a blue glove covered in the oily tar surrounding the tour.
The Coast Guard heads up oil spill response, and Lauer said the Guard hasn’t transitioned from the response phase to the recovery phase yet.
As part of the response phase, crews are out on the water daily skimming, vacuuming and surf washing, said Lauer. On Jan. 6 there were 345 total response vessels in affected areas, according to RestoretheGulf.gov.
But by now much of the oil has solidified, its light-ends, a chemical component of crude oil, burned off by sunlight and extended periods of time.
Rather than being able to vacuum up oil off the water’s surface or soak it up in boom as was done a few months ago, presently tar entrenches marsh vegetation and sheets of thick, gooey oil have settled to the ocean floor.
Adding to the complexity of the oil spill is Louisiana’s already existing coastal erosion problem, said Lauer. The Coast Guard is taking a holistic approach to cater to this issue.
There are 20 test pilots in Bay Jimmy, approximately 40 square feet in size, where the Coast Guard is experimenting with various techniques to remove oil and salvage land, searching for the best method to use everywhere else, Lauer said.
“No one’s walking away,” said Lauer. “There is a sense of urgency, but that urgency can’t conflict with causing more damage.”
The native wildlife is another environmental aspect in jeopardy from the spill. With winter brings cold weather, and Nungesser said one drop of oil could compromise the natural insulation feathers provide for pelicans. He said there are already thousands of dead birds as result of the oil.
The oil spill was a result of the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon off shore drilling base on April 20, 2010. The blast killed 11 of the workers, and government scientists estimate the well gushed nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before finally being plugged in July.
British Petroleum, referred to several times throughout the tour as “the responsible party,” has been footing the bill for cleanup and assessment operations thus far.
Future legal proceedings will determine the penalty for BP to pay; at minimum the fine could be $1,000 per barrel, at most $4,300 each.
If oil is spotted in Plaquemines Parish or its surrounding waterways, Lauer asked for the finder to please call the Environment/Community Hotline, 866.448.5816, and report the location of the oil.