The oil spill

A few more vignettes from Alabama and the northern Gulf coast:

Tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon spill appeared on the Dauphin Island shore on Saturday. According to the Mobile Press-Register, “about 100 workers in white hazmat suits, yellow boots and black gloves were picking up samples of black-stained sand near the pier, as beachgoers nearby waded in the water, played football and made sandcastles.”

Mississippi and Florida appear to have been hit Sunday, and Texas is bracing for possible contact today. There is suspicious black stuff on the beaches, but so far only the Chandeleur Islands of Louisiana have actually been hit with an oil slick.

The “unified command” (BP, subcontractors, and government agencies) has a website. (Newhouse newspapers in Alabama) has links to news coverage here. Government agencies reporting responses to the spill include NOAA (tracking the oil), EPA (air and water pollution), FDA (seafood safety), and HHS (human health effects).

Mobile Baykeeper has a reference page for news, volunteering, and reporting damage. Official state pages are up for Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The tarballs that have come ashore so far are not considered a health hazard to people who just step on one occasionally. (I’m pleased to hear it, as I used to pick the things up when I was a child visiting Florida.) But f’God’s sake, wash the stuff off right away. There’s a reason the cleanup people are wearing boots and gloves.

One of the best overviews of the spill story is from Pro Publica.

Alabama is getting $25 million from BP for cleanup efforts, which will include an effort to build a gate of floating booms across the mouth of Mobile Bay, as well as smaller estuaries along the coast. Piles have already been driven at intervals across the bay’s mouth; failed attempts in April have shown that without moorings, the booms will be dispersed by choppy water. The state will also set up a “ship cleaning station” at the bay’s mouth.

At the same time, the state is spending about a million and a half on a campaign assuring vacationers that the beaches are still open.

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