Gulf sheen could be BP spill remnants


THIBODAUX – The source of oil washing ashore at Elmer’s Island and other shore-side areas east of Grand Isle is still not known.

But Coast Guard officials confirmed today that they have not ruled out the possibility that it is from BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which crippled some businesses on Louisiana’s coast for months and from whose effects residents are still recovering.

Various reports of sheen had been made to the federal government’s National Response Center over the course of the weekend. Now some of that oil has come ashore and cleanup crews have been working to mitigate any damage that the oil might cause.

Grand Isle Fire Chief Aubrey Chiasson said crews are making progress, and that his own observations tell him the oil washing ashore is from a finite source, not anything like the non-stop gusher that he and other residents of his community contended with subsequent to the April 20 Macondo well blowout.

“We’re putting snare boom out,” Chiasson said, while helping direct nearly 100 workers, many from the cleanup firm ES&H. “It’s all been a minute rainbow sheen. We have airboats putting out boom in some of the places where that sheen and some other stuff came in … It’s very manageable, we have enough people and they are prepared.”

Some of that sheen, Chiasson said, included clumps of the peanut-buttery substance workers grew accustomed to seeing at the height of the Deepwater incident, bolstering the potential that at least some of the oil being cleaned up is related to that spill.

Capt. Jonathan Burton, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit in Morgan City, told reporters at a news conference that the source is still under investigation, but that it is confirmed to be Louisiana crude oil.

The affected area consists of small pockets spread out over a 30-mile swath of coastline, and is not concentrated in any one area within that range, Burton said. There is still some sheen offshore that may be headed toward Fourchon and Elmer’s Island, officials said. But that appears to be finite and is not expected to grow.

The sheen is not related to a big patch of oil-topped debris that entered the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River, believed caused by high water in midwestern states due to heavy rain.

Chiasson said that while sheen has come ashore in areas like this near the population center that is Grand Isle, a resort town built on Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island, Grand Isle has not been affected.

“Especially for people planning their weekends, they need to know that Grand Isle is up and open for business,” Chiasson said.

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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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