Coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill by Noelle Leavitt and Jenn LeBlanc

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BP to build a large barrier on Dauphin Island to block oil

By Noelle Leavitt

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. Crews worked to clean up beached oil that washed ashore at Dauphin Island while people sunned and swam all around them. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

The oil spill has prompted BP to give the state of Alabama $17 million to build a mile-long sand and rock barrier designed to block oil from washing upon the state’s shoreline, according to a BP spokesperson.

The barrier is currently being built on the west end of Dauphin Island, which is a few miles south of Mobile, AL.

Alabama’s Department of  Environmental Management is overseeing the project that will be a mile and a quarter in length and 50-feet wide.

Huge-boulder rocks are shipped to Dauphin Island everyday by barges and, after they’re placed in the water, sand is spread over them to create a manmade island, said  Henry De La Graza, a BP spokesman.

Dauphin Island has roughly 1,700 people who live there, and each day BP work crews clean the beaches of tar balls.

“We had 800 workers combing the beaches since yesterday,” De La Graza said. “We picked up around 12,000 pounds of tar balls, which is a light day for us.”

A small percentage of the tar balls are recycled, but most of them are shipped to a landfill.

Tourism has taken quite a dip on the Island.

Karl Hoven, who owns Dauphin Island Cheveron and Grill said his business has dipped 75 percent since the oil slick.

“It has slowed down considerably,” he said. “The tourists is what makes us from the middle of March to the end of September. If you don’t make your money then, you have a long hard winter.”

Although tourism has dropped, locals still swam in the oil contaminated waters.

Mobile, AL resident Sheila Clark, her daughter Sara, 13, and friend Jaimee Orrell, 12, visited Dauphin Island July 8. BP clean-up crews combed the beaches while they enjoyed the sunny weather. She wanted to witness what the oil was doing to the beaches first hand.

“All we’re seeing is these little globs right here. We’re not seeing what’s under the water,” Clark said. “Our Mobile industry, so much is seafood and tourism — it’s killing us here. It is on Dauphin Island anyway.

Clark also said she visited the island to spend money, giving what she could to the local economy.

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. Crews worked to clean up beached oil that washed ashore at Dauphin Island while people sunned and swam all around them. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. From left Sheila Clark, her daughter Sara, 13, and friend Jaimee Orrell, 12, walked the beaches of Dauphin Island while crews worked to clean up beached oil that washed ashore around them. Clark said they came down to do a little shopping and enjoy the day, support the Dauphin Island economy as bet they could by spending a little money.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. The rocky beach is splattered with flows of gooey, thick, oil that washed ashore at high tide at the east end of Dauphin Island beyond the old fort. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service walked around Dauphin Island handing out information cards to visitors with phone numbers to call in case of oil or wildlife in imminent danger.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
A bird drinks from a small stream on the beach at Dauphin Island. A light oil sheen is difficult to detect in the bright sunlight, but can be seen in some images.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. Crews work on the land bridge that will eventually connect Dauphin Island with another barrier island while Brown Pelicans and laughing gulls rest, fish and sun next to an enclosed tide pool. The green barrier fence was built by the National Guard to protect the area.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
DAUPHIN ISLAND, Ala. A brown pelican rests on a pier near oil booms at the base of the bridge to Dauphin Island.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
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Louisiana’s Grand Isle goes through the oil ringer

By Noelle Leavitt

Reporter Noelle Leavitt handles mousse July 6, 2010 at Grand Isle Beach. Mousse is characterized as brown, red or orange in color with a pudding-like sticky consistency by Deepwater Horizon Response. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Sticky blobs of oil lay upon the shoreline of Grand Isle, LA that is usually cluttered with children playing in the crisp ocean this time of year.

As the laughing gulls walk along the beaches, their webbed feet occasionally touch the polluting, pudding-like mousse that was breached from a broken oil rig nearly a mile deep off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana.

A portion of the contaminated shoreline is what’s called the “hot zone,” where tar balls and sticky oil pollute the beach.

Protective booms are spread along the shorefront, as well as signs posted warning the public to stay out of the effected areas.

Local residents now rely on BP for their income, said Grand Isle resident and home builder Wesley Bland, who has received two payments of $5,000 dollars in the last couple of months for lost work.

“This year was supposed to be a big year for me, better than last year. I have built 25 homes right here in Grand Isle,” Bland said. “I employ 17 people. Since the oil hit, I have six workers, and next month I may not have any.”

The father of four young children, Bland said $5,000 isn’t enough to pay his bills.

“You know, I put a sign out and I basically told (BP) to go to hell, but BP has came in and handed checks to all the local people, and continue to do so every month,” Bland said.

A sign just outside Grand Isle shows the discontent businessman Wesley Bland has about the BP oil spill. After speaking with Bland, his disappointment with the handling of the incident over the last 78 days has shifted from BP to the U.S. Government.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
The beach is closed July 6, 2010 near zone 10 of Grand Isle Beach.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
The plastic barrier to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the contaminated beach is about 60 feet before the large inflated black and orange boom that demarkates the hot zone seen here July 6, 2010 near zone ten of Grand Isle Beach. The surf at zone ten is much darker in color the crest of the waves a dark brown in color. The beach is closed and there are plastic net fences set up to keep all unauthorized personnel away from the inflatable containment barrier which demarkates the hot zone. Nobody is allowed in the hot zone without the appropriate hazmat gear and equipment including facemasks and tyvek suits where the oil is the worst. There are “decon” crews whose primary job is to make sure none of the oil and chemical contaminants pass the barrier of the hot zone, cleaning the crews who clean the beach. They are the last defense between the oil and the public.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
A laughing gull stands on the Grand Isle beach surrounded by blobs of oil mousse. Mousse is characterized as brown, rust or orange in color with a pudding-like sticky consistency by Deepwater Horizon Response.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

A dark brown tide is seen July 6, 2010 near zone ten of Grand Isle Beach. The surf at zone ten is much darker in color than the surf at zone five, the crest of the waves a dark brown in color.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Louisiana tattoo parlor expresses frustration through art

By Noelle Leavitt

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Tattoo artist Bobby Pitre has much to say about the BP oil spill, but he’s not doing it with words — he’s doing it with gobs of paint on billboards outside of his tattoo parlor in LaFourche, LA.

Huge paintings of President Barack Obama, the grim reaper, and an amputated body cover the front of his business — Southern Sting Tattoo Parlor — allowing him to use his own form of freedom of expression.

“It’s just a way to vent your frustration,” Pitre said. “It could’ve been prevented with a few more safety steps, you know. But they chose to ignore it, to save a few bucks, well a few million bucks, still, look at what it’s costing them now, you know.”

He also has a mannequin, wearing a gas mask, holding a dead, oil-saturated fish standing on the corner of his storefront.

“My little girl loves to fish. That’s pretty much what it is, the fish are toxic now with the oil. We can’t go out and fish,” Pitre said.

Passersby honk car horns throughout the day, sharing their annoyance with Pitre about the BP oil slick.

“On the side of the road, I could scream a hundred times a week if I wanted to,” Pitre said, adding that his art is a more useful way to assert his disappointment with the oil industry.

“People are pretty upset. There’s a lot of people that are actually working out there. As long as they’re making money, they’re alright right now. It hasn’t really hit home because they’re not starving right now,” he said. “It should’ve been stopped a long time ago, it could’ve been prevented — that’s why I’ve got this painting right here, ‘Deep Water Drilling 101’.”

Inside his parlor he has three paintings: Two of BP CEO Tony Hayward, and one of
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindel. The Jindel painting is very supportive of the governor, and outside his shop Pitre painted “Bobby Jindel for President.”

“It’s pretty tragic the way it happened,” Pitre said. “Just the spill, the amount of oil that’s coming out is ridiculous.”

Pitre actually used to work in the oil fields. He was a welder and a fitter at the ship yards, so he’s very familiar with that end of it too.

Now, he spends his days as an artist, helping people express themselves with body tattooing.

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