It’s hard to turn on your TV these days and avoid those cloying spots for Gulf Coast tourism that BP is spending millions of dollars on — proving that the only thing the company behind the Deepwater Horizon disaster actually works hard on cleaning up is its image. You know the ad — the one that declares to an uptempo zydeco soundtrack that “‘I’m glad to report that all beaches and waters are open for everyone to enjoy!” (Which is not true, by the way.) Obviously BP didn’t run this commercial past Tony Kennon, the mayor of Orange Beach, Ala. Kennon is furious at the British oil giant and when you learn about what’s going on down in his Gulf Coast resort town, it’s easy to understand why.
Last weekend, with the peak tourist season just days away, a contractor for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was dredging an area near the Perdido Pass Bridge when it struck oil — and not in a good, “Beverly Hillbillies” kind of way. The dredging unearthed a thick gooey tar mat that was underneath the sand. The activity released both a nasty odor and an oil sheen that covered the water east of Perdido Pass – a grim reminder of the bad days of the worst oil disaster in U.S. history. BP is now saying that it will pay to clean up the new pollution discovery –if it can be established through tests being conducted by the Coast Guard that the gunk is from the Macondo well that blew out in 2010. Of course, the chance is that is only slightly less than 100 percent. Kennon, the Orange Beach mayor, is irate that he has to deal with this black goo right on the cusp of the summer beach season.
“Of course it’s theirs,” the mayor told one reporter. “It’s not cooking grease out of the restaurant at the point. It’s the tar mat from the Macondo well.” In another interview, Kennon said: “We’ve told BP all along there were tar mats there, but they have refused to come and core the area. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s from BP — unless we hit an oil well and we’re all going to be wealthy.”
This is what’s so infuriating about BP’s big-money PR campaigns that are about as slick as the waters off Perdido Pass right now. It’s why I get so mad, as I did the other day, when I see that the United Kingdom has the gall to anoint these eco-terrorists as an official “Sustainability Partner” of what are supposed to be the most “green” Summer Olympics ever held. British Petroleum needs to be spending its out-sized profits on restoring trashed beaches and marshlands — not on restoring its image.
It would be one thing if the ugly tar mat off Orange Beach were an isolated event. But it’s not. For one thing, most experts think there could be hundreds of other sites with trapped oil just like the one of Perdido Pass Bridge. But that’s just one problem. Every day, I come across some new reminder that for the residents of the Gulf Coast, the Deepwater Horizon disaster isn’t something from a history book but an ongoing, everyday nightmare.
Just listen to charter boat captain Gregg Arnold, who told Louisiana Weekly that the
trout population is down by as much as 98 percent since the spill while redfish numbers are off by 50 percent. “We’ve seen redfish and trout with lesions since the spill, and we didn’t see that before,” Arnold said. “We’ve noticed a decline in the amount of bait–pilchards, mullet, shrimp and crabs. And sharks are moving closer to shore, probably because they can’t find food.”
Or ask Dean Blanchard of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, La., who told the Daily Comet that the recent shrimp haul was about 18 percent of what he normally gets, and that many of the boats were carrying shrimp that seemed sickened by the oil spill. He added that the shrimp had lesions and tumors, “stuff that I’ve never seen in my life.”
And yet BP wants us all to move on, and so do their friends in the government. Look, we’d all like to put the Deepwater Horizon tragedy behind us — but how can we when these grim reminders keep bubbling up from under the sand? The reality is that there is so much more work that needs to be done, and BP still needs to step up and take full responsibility for their mess.
For an overview of the tar mat situation off Orange Beach, read: http://blog.al.com/live/2012/05/bp_says_it_will_assist_if_oil.html
Read my post from May 3 about BP and the sellout of the London Olympics: http://www.stuarthsmith.com/sellout-of-the-century-uks-greenest-ever-olympic-games-embrace-bp-as-official-sponsor
For more about the ongoing crisis of marine wildlife in the Gulf, read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-buchanan/marine-life-suffers-near-_b_1501018.html
To read more about the slow start of shrimp season, go to http://www.dailycomet.com/article/20120508/ARTICLES/120509641?p=all&tc=pgall
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