MOBILE, Alabama — A poll conducted in southern Mobile County found 71 percent of respondents believe that the BP oil spill caused permanent ecological damage to the Gulf of Mexico.
Among other results:
* 61 percent said that the spill has had a negative impact on their household.
* 38 percent disagreed with the statement that seafood from spill-affected areas is safe to eat.
* 32 percent said they would move to another community if they could.
Also, 19 percent reported filing claims with BP PLC, but only a small number of those expressed satisfaction their payment amounts.
“One of the things this shows is people are hurting down there,” said Keith Nicholls, director of the USA Polling Group, which conducted the polling. “It’s important to keep in mind that people are still suffering.”
The telephone survey of 412 people living south of Interstate 10, excluding Theodore, was conducted Sept. 9-27. The margin of error was 5 percentage points.
The sampling is part of a larger academic study by Steve Picou, a sociology professor at the University of South Alabama who has examined the impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska for more than 20 years, and Duane Gill of Oklahoma State University.
“It’s obvious that people in south Mobile County believe there has been damage and the damage is serious,” Picou said. “The spill has really impacted them in a very significant way.”
After the Exxon Valdez spill, the rates of suicide, domestic violence and divorce soared in the areas most affected by the contamination of Prince Edward Sound. Picou and local health officials have expressed concern that the same is ahead for Gulf communities where, for generations, families have made a living from local waters.
In the coming year, Picou said, he and his team will analyze data from the new poll, looking at stress levels and perceptions of air quality, among other topics.
Picou hopes to use the data to eventually develop programs that could help those most at risk of harmful effects from the spill.
Picou and Gill received a $36,000 National Science Foundation rapid response grant to help cover the costs of conducting surveys in the south Mobile communities, including Bayou La Batre and Coden.