Posted by Alexander Higgins – June 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm
As a tide of tarballs from the BP Gulf Oil Spill assaults the Florida coast line local Florida residents, businesses and county officials are demanding action from BP, State, and Federal Government officials in charge of monitoring and responding to the spill. Local residents in Walton County, Florida demanded a Town Hall meeting to discuss the lack of response to the oil assaulting the coast line. They are also demanding answers to other questions like why local beaches have been declared safe and remain open even though tarballs have been washing ashore for weeks in Florida and the DEP hasn’t tested the waters for hydrocarbons since May 1st.
Ed Berry, a local businessmen, urged the commissioners to make sure the appropriate parties are being held accountable. In his testimony he said “The children were in the water swimming. They were coming out of the water with tarballs on their face; they were wiping their face and having tar in their eyes and on their mouth.” While Ed Berry was demanding accountability and pushing for independent testing and monitoring of the local Florida waters Darryl Boudreau, the DEP Assistant District Director, admitted that no direct sampling has been conducted in Walton County waters but worked to downplay the issue. Boudreau told the commission “Now the tar balls obviously are petroleum, but the water quality surrounding it, it’s not leaching out chemicals”
Video I found seems to tell a different story.
While the supposedly “non-toxic” tarballs wash up on the shore itself, just a few feet from the shore is indeed a toxic mixture of tar based material that is killing sea life on the seafloor. It is that toxic mixture that turns into that tarballs that Ed Berry alludes is ending up on the faces and in the mouths of children swimming on the beach. In fact the video not only shows the formation of the tarballs but shows another danger lurking in the waters. The massive exodus of sea life swarming to shallow water to flee from the oil spill has cause sharks to lurk dangerously close to shore line.
This type of activity is happening all along the Gulf Coast. In fact multiple BP funded campaigns being ran by state tourism groups is urging people to come to Florida because the beaches are clean, safe and open. But local reports continued to tell a different story. Take for example official reports that put the oil slick 10 miles off the coast of Purdue Key while a video of a Coast Guard led boating expedition goin out to film the slick found the oil only 2 miles off the shore. In that same video a Coast Guard official says she can’t explain why the public beaches are still open with the slick being so close to shore but says she would not allow her children to swim in the waters. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJDkrfmIgyg&feature=player_embedded
WJHG reports that its not just local residents but the county officials that are demanding action.
Walton County Initiates Local Task Force to Address Oil Spill Health Concerns As you can imagine, it was the hot topic at tonight’s county commission meeting, where commissioners are demanding BP and state officials respond faster to the crisis. The county’s newly-formed local task force will be addressing the growing health and safety concerns of residents and visitors. Another wave of tarballs washed up this afternoon along 14 miles of the beaches in South Walton. As you can imagine, it was the hot topic at tonight’s county commission meeting, where commissioners are demanding BP and state officials respond faster to the crisis. The county’s newly-formed local task force will be addressing the growing health and safety concerns of residents and visitors.
Are the beaches safe?
Walton county residents stepped up to the podium at Tuesday night’s county commission meeting looking for an answer. Local businessman Ed Berry is urging commissioners to make sure the appropriate parties are being held accountable. “The children were in the water swimming. They were coming out of the water with tarballs on their face; they were wiping their face and having tar in their eyes and on their mouth.” That horrifying image has local officials working to ‘up the ante’. A request was made to hold weekly town hall meetings, obtain weekly reports on how BP is managing cleanup expenditures, and to provide an updated list of all the consultants the county is using. But the big push was for the county to begin conducting independent air and water quality testing. This stems from the frustration and belief that state agencies are doing little, and the little they are doing is a little too late. Darryl Boudreau is the Assistant Director of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Northwest District. He willingly admits the agency hasn’t been the most efficient. “We’re getting better at how to handle this. I know no one wants to hear this but we are using a response structure that is not designed for this, and I think that’s what has led to some of this frustration. My goal is to make this process improve, improve, improve to the point where we are all working well and we’ve got it all figured out. And I hate to say this but we are writing the chapter for Florida.” And the county is asking BP to step up their cleanup efforts and response time. Sheriff Mike Adkinson says some things have to change. “As I understand it, they are working twenty minutes and resting forty… that wouldn’t work for me, but I’ll tell you that we’re gonna find a way to work that out.” County Commissioner Sara Comander agrees. “I know we have people here that are trained and ready to go on the beach within an hour, or two hours notice, and they’re not being called. So however you all solve that problem… I just know it’s a problem that needs to be solved.” County officials are hoping to resolve these problems at a public hearing, scheduled for July 13th. Officials will also discuss how much additional money from the TDC’s reserve fund they’ll earmark for the recovery efforts.
Local Environmental Group Accuses DEP Of Misleading Water Quality Testing Defuniak Springs, Fla: An environmental group says oil from the BP leak has contaminated Walton County waters and accuses the state agency responsible for monitoring water quality of misleading government officials and the public. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) came under fire during Tuesday’s Walton County Commission meeting from the non-profit group Reclaim Our America. Members of the organization say the DEP has not been truthful about water quality testing. “I believe the county’s being misled… I believe that our sheriff has been misled… and I believe our Tourist Development Council has been misled,” says Ed Berry of Reclaim Our America. “All three agencies are acting in their best interests but don’t have proper information.” Berry says the DEP has not conducted any water quality tests since May 1 – and those were done in waters off Pensacola, not Walton County. Sheriff Michael Adkinson was among a group of government officials who toured Walton County beaches with DEP Secretary Michael Sole earlier in the day. The sheriff says the agency’s answers regarding air and water quality are frustrating. “I don’t think that’s something that you should have to have a PhD to read and understand,” says Adkinson. “I think that’s something that should be readily accessible and something that should be delivered in a timely and consistent fashion.” Darryl Boudreau, DEP’s Assistant District Director, concedes that no direct sampling has been conducted in Walton County waters, but says that will change now that oil has arrived. He says tests in other areas revealed no dissolved hydrocarbons in the water. “Now the tar balls obviously are petroleum, but the water quality surrounding it, it’s not leaching out chemicals,” says Boudreau. Meanwhile, District 4 Commissioner Sara Comander complained to BP’s Nicolas Morlino that the company’s Friday response to a Thursday call for assistance was disappointing. “I think that’s unacceptable – 24 hours – when we have people in this county that have been trained and are not being called,” she said. “We’re working on it,” replied Morlino. Sheriff Adkinson told commissioners he is considering supplemental workers not hired by BP for cleanup efforts and independent water testing to ensure consistent reporting. NOTE: The original news story was title “Local Environmental Group” but the Ed Berry chimed in to make it clear it was not an environmental group
Some more videos from Reclaim Our America Lines – In Deep Water: A Way of Life in Peril http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4itfAVq19U&feature=player_embedded
A requiem for the Gulf – Slideshow of images from the BP Gulf Oil Spill