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
She will be documenting:
Venice/Fort Jackson/Buras/Grand Isle LOUISIANA,
Long Beach/Gulfport/Biloxi MISSISSIPPI,
Orange Beach/Fort Morgan/Dauphin Island ALABAMA.
Workers use shovels to gather and scoop the orange gooey mousse into plastic bags to be hauled to the local trash dump. Night operations on Long Beach in Long Beach and Pass Christian started July 7, 2010 and this was the third consecutive night of work in the same area. The workers are tired but in good spirits, they are not allowed to speak with us. For us to witness the work we must stay out of their way and enter and exit the containment area through the decon tents. They work hard until someone comes and tells them to stop for a break or a shift change. They keep going, working on the seemingly endless piles of oil that come ashore with the tide.
The oil collected is taken to the local dump. That’s right, it’s going into the Pecan Grove Landfill in Pass Christian, Miss.
Photo by: Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
The ‘sugar sand’ beaches at Fort Morgan used to be white according to one clean-up worker. Fort Morgan is a State Historic site as well as an upscale beach community. One of the interesting aspects of Fort Morgan are the endangered Alabama Beach Mice. They live in small burrows in the sand, and only come out at night. When they dig out the burrow the contrast between the clean sand below and dirty sand above becomes obvious.
The beach mice are endangered due to dissappearing habitat, the effects of the oil spill on their only remaining habitat are, as yet, unknown. The beach in this area is not inundated with the orange oil mousse that we have seen much of in Mississippi, but instead with the black tar balls that the burrows are surrounded with.
Photo by Jenn LeBlanc/Iris Photo Agency
Boom operations in Cotton Bayou and Bayou Saint John. The white boom is called sorbent boom and is dragged behind the boats with pompoms attached that collect any surface oil. The different colors of boom are for different types of water, and use, but every boom has universal attachments so they can be linked without problems, regardless of manufacturer. Vehicles of Opportunity drag boom back and forth across the inlets to different areas to prevent as much contamination into the bayous and harbors as possible. The brown discoloration in the water is not oil but tannins which are eaten by the local fish and important to the habitat.
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.
By Noelle Leavitt
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.
By Noelle Leavitt
Gulfport, MS — Two young Coast Guards from Colorado who are based in Gulfport, have a new whirlwind of experience under their belts from the oil spill.
Mike Svoboda, 20, from Parker, CO, cruises the oily gulf each day to document where the slick is at any given time.
“I’ve actually seen oil out toward the Barrier Islands, which are about six miles off shore. It’s little globs maybe about a couple inches in diameter, and it floats just beneath the water surface, and you can barely see it. And then when we went to Ship Island, which is one of the Barrier Islands, it’s actually all over the beaches.”
It’s the kind of oil nobody wants to touch.
“Sand sticks to it, everything sticks to it,” he said. “I don’t recommend picking it up. It sticks to your fingers real bad. It’s hard to get off.”
Coast Guard Matt Wietbrock, 23, from Westminster, CO has a completely different set of duties.
He answers the phones each day, filtering calls from civilians across the country who have ideas on how to stop the oil leak that’s now in its’ 80th day of gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.
“The phones are ringing constantly,” Wietbrock said. “Everyday someone has a new idea of how they can help stop the oil, and some of the people that call in have pretty good ideas, and some of the ideas are just crazy.”
Both men love to snowboard, and daydream of hitting the Colorado ski slopes in the winter.
Svoboda heads home to Colorado on July 9 for a much needed two week vacation.