Coast Guard: Gulf sheen likely came from river


Oil washes ashore at Elmer’s Island Sunday afternoon. The Coast Guard is investigating at least two pollution incidents in waters south of Grand Isle.

GRAND ISLE — Coast Guard officials are investigating at least two pollution incidents in Gulf of Mexico waters south of Grand Isle.

Officials confirmed Sunday that a large sheen was covering as much as 100 miles by six miles of water. Neither is believed related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, officials said.

The sheen is believed caused by “a tremendous amount of sediment being carried down the Mississippi River due to high water,” some of it related to recent heavy rains in the Midwest and “possibly further agitated by dredging operations,” Coast Guard officials said. Reports of a sheen in Timbalier Bay, near Grand Isle, Fourchon Beach and Elmer’s Island, are also being investigated and some areas have been boomed off.

Jefferson Parish said Sunday that well south of Grand Isle had released oil for 4-6 hours before being plugged. However, no well fires were reported around Grand Isle, and no injuries were reported.

After completing an aerial survey of the spill with Jefferson Parish President John F. Young Jr. Sunday afternoon, Grand Isle Fire Chief Aubrey Chiasson said they saw patches of “light- to moderate-weathered oil” starting about three miles from the Caminada Pass in the Gulf and stretching out at least five miles.

Lafourche spokesman Brennan Matherne said the parish’s Office of Emergency Preparedness was working with the Coast Guard to track the oil coming to Fourchon Beach.

“It’s not the heavy brown and black oil, it’s just the sheen that hit Fourchon Beach,” Matherne said.

ES&H is handling cleanup on the shorelines.

The Coast Guard said Saturday night that there was a spill of some substance in the Gulf. A sample was taken on Saturday, when their vessel reached the scene, Ranel said.

The National Response Center first received a report of oil at 9:34 a.m. Saturday. The report indicated a two-mile-long rainbow sheen on the surface, according to the NRC’s website. Records show five other reports of oil near Grand Isle followed on Saturday.

Ranel said crews are standing by to clean up the substance once it is identified.

Chiasson said he first heard of the substance Saturday afternoon, after officials started calling him.

“We had a report from a crabber that it’s black oil,” Chiasson said.

The Coast Guard would have gotten to the spill earlier on Saturday, but they were called to a search and rescue case in Lake Borgne, officials said.

Staff Writer Eric Heisig can be reached at 857-2202 or Follow him on Twitter @TerrebonneCrime.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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