Clean up of Alabama beaches is back in full force after a ten day layoff for the holidays. But, is it all for nothing as oil buried in the surf zone continues to impact local beaches.
ORANGE BEACH, Alabama – Clean up crews have had their hands full trying to keep the beaches on the bay side of Fort Morgan clean.
“This seems to be a hot spot whenever we do have weather it just comes and lays up on this beach right here,” says project manager Wilber Ledet.
In Gulf Shores, the deep clean is back underway with heavy machinery sifting sand, getting the oil out of the beaches. But as more tar balls continue to wash up the concern shifts to the oil that is still in the water.
The tar balls that are washing up now and will continue to wash up are from oil that is still offshore and what’s out there will eventually end up on the beach.
“It is a great concern of ours that we’re going to have to be dealing with recurrent tar balls washing up on the beach and it just seems like they’ve been dragging their feet in dealing with the tar mats in the surf zone.” Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon says it is a process that should have happened simultaneously with the beach clean up.
“That is a whole lot more complicated process than the beach process. It took us a while to figure out what to do on the beaches so we’re still working at it. But we’re not on the water yet.” BP spokesperson Mary Lee Montgomery says BP is still in a research and development stage when it comes to getting tar mats out of the surf zone. “This kind of clean up has never been done before,” she says, “so there’s a whole lot more factor when you add that instability of the water there.”
Kennon says that’s just an excuse. “The bottom line is they have the technology to drill in five thousand feet of water. There’s no excuse for not finding out how much oil is in our surf zone.”
At any given time there are close to a thousand people working to clean up Alabama beaches, from Dauphin Island to the Florida state line. As long as the tar mats remain in the surf zone, there will all have a job for some time to come.