Oil may have washed up in Coden, Bayou La Batre, say witnesses


Something that looked like weathered oil washed up in Coden and Bayou La Batre on Sunday and Monday, according to reports from people in the area.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and BP said they had not received any reports of oil in the area.

The material was bunched up against the seawall in Coden on Sunday morning and again early Monday, said Jan Bryant Isham, who reported it to the Press-Register. No oil was present later Monday when the Press-Register visited the area.

Isham said she noticed a brown material and an accompanying light sheen Sunday during her regular weekend walk along the seawall. She provided camera-phone images of small patties, 1 to 3 inches across, floating along the seawall and out in open water.

“The tide was extremely low. I saw patties, weird stuff, in the morning. Then, yesterday afternoon, I saw several people parked by the seawall. They were seeing more of the stuff I saw,” she said Monday.

“I felt some of it. Some was gritty. It broke up on me,” she said. “It wasn’t extremely oily, but it did have an oil-type feel.”

Isham and others reported seeing BP cleanup crews working Monday morning from airboats in marshes near the material along the seawall. A BP spokesman said that activity was unrelated to any oil reports.

“I talked with our people in Coden. They said they picked up about 50 bags of snare and absorbent boom,” said Ray Melick, a BP spokesman. “This was a pre-approved operation, going from Bayou La Batre eastward. They are picking up boom that was out during the spill. They finished up Coffee Island (Sunday).”

He said the airboats were working in the marsh, cleaning the area.

Sandy Barnes, who lives in Bayou La Batre, said that she saw a lot of what she believes is oil.

“It came up on the high tide,” she said. “They had airboats out there, and we asked what they were doing. They just said they were cleaning the marsh, but we had seen the oil.”

Heather Byars, with ADEM, said her agency had been working in the area for days but never saw oil or received reports of it washing up.

“If we had been aware of something as specific as that, it would have been in our daily report,” Byars said Monday. “It was not in our report yesterday or today. I don’t think we were aware of that, if it was in fact oil. We did have some tarballs on the south side of Coffee Island a few days ago that we cleaned up. Today, we cleaned some grass lands.”

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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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