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

Posts tagged “Coast Guard

The return

Jenn will be returning to the Gulf of Mexico to continue the coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill August 4-10,

one month after the original trip.

If you are interested in content, you can contact her via

email: Jenn@jennleblanc.com

She will be documenting:

Venice/Fort Jackson/Buras/Grand Isle LOUISIANA,

Long Beach/Gulfport/Biloxi MISSISSIPPI,

Orange Beach/Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island ALABAMA.


BP oil disaster swallows beaches in Mississippi

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc

By Noelle Leavitt

LONG BEACH, Miss. Paris Williams, 13 months, plays on the beach surrounded by globs of mousse tar balls on the sand and floating just below the surface of the water. All the dark brown spots visible on the sad are oil mousse. The girl picked up some of the mousse, and it stuck to the skin on her hand, wrist and around her mouth, and her grandmother couldn’t wash it off.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency.

Oily waters slowly crept onto the shore July 7, at Long Beach — near Gulfport and Biloxi, MS — where swimmers tried to enjoy the bright and sunny day despite the gloomy truth about the BP oil disaster.

Globs of oil muck started flowing onto the beach around 3 p.m., and by nightfall large sheets of oil slick started to swallow the white-sandy shore where thousands of visitors flock each year.

Ann Myers and her young granddaughter, Paris Williams, 1, waded in the water, only to find tar balls and glossy-oil mousse at their feet.

“I hate it. I think it’s just awful,” Myers said. “Because we always enjoyed coming here, and the grand babies can’t get out and play like they normally do.”

The little girl had oil smeared on her hands and neck from the contaminated water.

“She just picked up an oil ball. It was floating around in the water,” Myers said of her granddaughter.

The oily waters were deceiving to the eye, as many couldn’t decipher if the water was safe for swimming.

“It’s hard to see in the water,” said Greg May, Gulfport resident. “It’s really easy to see on the beach, though.”

Despite the obvious pollution, he still took a dip in the gulf.

“We’re going straight home to shower,” he said, adding that it’s really difficult not to get into the water despite the oil, because he loves the beach.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality had yet to close the foul waters from public use.

The scene was much worse around 9 p.m., when the oil slick nearly tripled in size, prompting local officials to increase the number of clean up crews on the shore.

Government officials also increased the clean up hours to a 24-hour cycle.

LONG BEACH, Miss. Ann Myers, and granddaughter Paris Williams, 13 months, play on the beach surrounded by globs of mousse tar balls on the sand and floating just below the surface of the water. The girl picked up some of the mousse, and it stuck to the skin on her hand, wrist and around her mouth, Myers couldn’t wash it off. Not far beyond where they played on the beach dozens of clean up workers in tyvek safety suits filled bags with the same oil mousse found where the child played.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency.
LONG BEACH, Miss. Ann Myers, and granddaughter Paris Williams, 13 months, play on the beach surrounded by globs of mousse tar balls on the sand and floating just below the surface of the water. Not far beyond where they played on the beach dozens of clean up workers in tyvek safety suits filled bags with the same oil mousse found where the child played.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency.

Workers clean the beach in Long Beach, Mississippi July 7, 2010. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

A heron fishes in Long Beach, Mississippi. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

A hermit crab sits on the beach drawn mostly into his shell. Dozens of these crabs littered the waters edge, surrounded by globs of mousse. Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency


Long Beach into night

Long Beach, Mississippi, July 7, 2010. A large amount of oil washed ashore in Long Beach prompting the first night time cleaning. Lights were brought in for the workers, originally, the lights had amber colored filters on them to protect any sea turtles in the area. The filters were peeled off when the men in charge were told there was no danger from the lights.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Long Beach, Mississippi, July 7, 2010.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
Long Beach, Mississippi, July 7, 2010.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
Long Beach, Mississippi, July 7, 2010.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
Long Beach, Mississippi, July 7, 2010.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

BP official expresses need for industry overhaul

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc

By Noelle Leavitt

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
A chart in the Joint Information Center in Venice, LA
is tagged with information concerning areas in their command.
Photo by Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Venice, LA — A BP official stationed at the joint information center in Venice, LA expressed regret and sorrow on July 5 about the oil slick, which continues to gush oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s disheartening to me, very much so,” said Jon Parker, BP operations section chief for Venice emergency response. “We know we need to do better, and I think you’re going to see a lot of changes in the oil industry because of it and how we not only get the oil, but also how we protect against it.”

Joint information centers are set up along the Gulf Coast, where a federal government official, usually a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, and a BP executive work as a team in insuring the oil mess gets proper attention and remediation.

“We’re operating in a unified command structure,” said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Frank Kulesa, who works in unison with Parker in Venice.

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
Coast Guard Lieutenant Frank Kulesa July 5, 2010 at the Joint Information Center in Venice, LA speaks about the BP gulf oil spill and their role in the cleanup and the effects he has seen on the environment.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Although the pair work together in decision making pertaining to the oil disaster, the Coast Guard has ultimate authority over what happens with the clean up, Kulesa said.

“It’s an ongoing process. We constantly have to prepare for the next wave as we remediate what has already impacted the shorelines here,” Kulesa said.

The rehabilitation efforts for wildlife and the marshes is an ongoing effort that keeps Kulesa, Parker and hundreds of workers — charter boat owners, biologists, U.S. Fish and Wildlife representatives and hazardous material personnel — constantly on their toes.

“We’re in a unique position where the oil can constantly come, and we’re constantly fighting the tropical storms, the natural currents, trying to determine where the oil is going to go,” Kulesa said. “We’re deploying containment boom, using different strategies to keep it from getting into sensitive areas, such as the Delta National Wildlife Refuge, and then we’re getting skimmers down on the water to try to recover some of the oil before it hits shoreline.”

But no matter how hard they try, it’s virtually impossible to keep the oil from entering the marsh along the Mississippi River Delta, where Venice is located.

“A couple of weeks ago, we had a reprieve, where the oil had predominantly been moving towards Florida and Alabama, because of the winds. However it seems to be coming back our way, so we’re constantly looking for where the likely impact location is,” Kulesa said.

The delicate landscape of the Mississippi delta is home to a variety of wildlife. Small islands along Venice are nesting areas to various species of birds. One island in particular — Breton Island — was deemed a national wildlife refuge in 1904 by executive order of President Theodore Roosevelt, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
Clipboards have plan of action for specific sites for cleanup above images of the area. Joint Information Center in Venice, LA.
Photo by Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Breton National Wildlife Refuge is the second oldest of 540 national refuges in the United States, and is located in a chain of islands 16 miles northeast of Venice. Extending northward toward the Mississippi Gulf Coast for 70 miles, it’s a nesting area for thousands of birds, including endangered species like the brown pelican.

Efforts to protect the island have been so extensive, that oil has yet to directly pollute the island.

“We’re averaging maybe two to three bird recovery a day, so we’re not getting the several hundred birds that we anticipated, at this point and time, which could change in the future,” said Bruce Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service public information officer for Venice.

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
Bruce Miller, Pubilc Information Officer for U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service July 5, 2010 at the Cove in Venice, LA speaks about the BP gulf oil spill and their role in the cleanup and the effects he has seen on the environment.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency

Yet that doesn’t mean the birds are in the clear of contamination. Brown pelicans continuously dive for fish in the oily waters, bringing home contaminated food for their babies, Miller said.

Protecting marine life from the oily waters is an enormous task, and BP is well aware of the ongoing problems it faces.

“I think it was an eye-opening experience for not just BP, but it was an eye opening experience for the whole industry,” Parker said. “And we’re here to do what ever we can to make it right.”

©2010 Jenn LeBlanc
“I think it was an eye-opening experience for, not just BP, I think it was an eye-opening experience for the whole industry.” Jon Parker, BP Information Section Chief for Venice, LA. said July 5, 2010 at the Joint Operations Center in Venice, LA about the BP gulf oil spill and their role in the cleanup and the effects he has seen on the environment. Parker was formerly an Assistant Chief with BP and has nearly 23 years of service with them.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency