Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Long Beach seeks more help to protect beach, harbor from oil

By Trang Pham-Bui

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - "We're seeing the smaller patties, but they're dry. So obviously they've been here for awhile," Long Beach Fire Chief George Bass said Monday.

After a weekend of stormy weather, Bass said there are fewer tar balls, but they're further up the beach and some have landed on the pavement at the Long Beach Harbor. Bass, who is also the city's Emergency Management Director, wondered why only a few clean-up workers were out Monday morning, combing the beaches for oily debris.

"We're worried about that, that they'll start deactivating some of the folks and we may have a smaller work force to clean up our beaches," said Bass. "They can't take care of the 26 miles in one day. They may have to work in sections and that's not what we want."

A BP spokesman said cleanup teams pulled back last Friday because of Tropical Storm Bonnie. But he said they returned on the beach Monday, although in smaller numbers.

"Here in Hancock and Harrison, we had about 100 people out today. But what they were finding was sporadic and light, and so there wasn't a whole lot to do," said BP Public Information Officer Richard Judy.

Bass said BP has also cut the number of recreational boaters in its Vessels of Opportunity program. He said the city needs smaller boats to check on booms, and if needed, clean up any oil around the harbor and rock jetties.

"We were called here two or three weeks ago, where we had a sheen coming in and large tar patties and we had no boats here being able to get out," said Bass. "We need some of the smaller boats in here to be able to work these enclosed areas, because our shelf here as everybody knows is shallow. It's not like you can bring a big boat in here."

Bass said the city also needs absorbent booms with curtains attached to catch the tar balls.

"We're afraid once the well's capped, everything as far as we could see might be over with, and we're still going to be dealing with what we're dealing with here this morning," said Bass. "We're going to have these tar balls, and we want assurance that they're going to be here."

"Our commitment and it has been from the beginning, and will continue to be is, deliver the resources that are necessary to clean up what needs to be cleaned up and that's what we're going to do," said Judy.

Chief Bass said the special booms and smaller boats can help protect other harbors in south Mississippi that are surrounded by shallow water. Richard Judy said he will talk to Bass about his concerns and what kind of protection his city needs.

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