From Fourchon Beach: “When I hear people say ‘It’s over,’ I just feel like screaming”


The lead story in the Sunday edition (Sept. 19) of the New Orleans Times-Picayune was entitled “BATTLE AGAINST OIL FAR FROM OVER: IT’S STILL OOZING ONTO THE LA. COAST.” It is a detailed report on why, in human terms, the battle against BP’s oil is still very much raging in many Gulf communities. Against the backdrop of the official “killing” of the Macondo well, cautionary tales continue to pour out of local and regional media outlets with the clear message that we still have a tremendous amount of work to do in restoring the Gulf.

According to Forrest Travirca, a field inspector for a local property owner in Fourchon Beach, La.: “All the brown spots and patches you’ll see on this beach for the next nine miles is oil…. And if you dig down a few inches or a few feet, you’ll see oil, too. And if you walk into that marsh back there, you’ll find oil.”

It’s important to note the “out of sight, out of mind” point Travirca makes. In many areas, on many beaches, you can’t see the oil at first glance, but if you dig a bit, it’s down there. And, of course, rough weather can pull that oil back into the water or push it further inland, into delicate marshes and estuaries.

We hear these types of reports constantly from residents down here. And there is a palpable fear that many communities along the Gulf will be left soaked in oil. The takeaway from the Times-Picayune piece and a raft of other recent local stories is: There is still a lot of oil to be reckoned with out there, and we need to take it very seriously.

The TP article includes comments like this: “The perception out there from the press – and particularly from BP and the Coast Guard – is ‘We’re in the home stretch. We’re done. It wasn’t so bad,’ and that’s a false impression,” said C. Cathy Norman, secretary-treasurer and land manager for the Wisner Donation.

The TP and others report that oil continues to come ashore across the Gulf in large soakings, soiling large stretches of beach and fouling feeding grounds.

And what of the government agencies that are supposed to be ensuring BP “makes it right”? Well, since those agencies helped low-ball the initial oil flow and then announced that the “vast majority” of the oil was gone, we should not expect much. And, frankly, we’re not getting much.

Said a manager of an important, oil-soaked preserve: “We’ve had top scientists with NOAA out here, and some of them have said the best thing to do is just leave it alone, and eventually it’ll all be gone…. They say it could take decades, but it’ll finally be gone.”

Read the Times-Picayune story here:

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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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