Christina M. Callisto
Published in Military Voice & Community News May/June edition, 2010
We are all anxiously waiting to see where the oil slick will spread and how fast. The tragic fire and explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which claimed the lives of 11 crew members and injured many more on April 20, 2010, has left leaks that have proved difficult and dangerous to stop.
As the weather systems bring the slick in close to the Louisiana border, tar balls will eventually find their way to Pensacola and continue eastward along our beautiful beaches possibly as far as Bay county. If the loop current pulls the mass away from us, the rest of Florida will be the target.
There are a few methods which may be employed to help the cleanup process before it gets to us. NASP has BioRem-2000: a microbe which eats hydrocarbons! When this mixes with water the microbes spring into action. Supposedly there are no harmful effects when it is used properly. The only bipoduct is carbon dioxide, the same gas mixture we breathe out.
A “green” (and cheap!) solution to cleaning up any oil which may reach our shores could be in our own “back yard.” A demonstration of the amazing power of hay to collect and adhere to the oil was recorded by the Northwest Florida Daily News and can be viewed on its website. Search: “Using hay to clean up oil.” This hay is grown by local farmers and will be harvested shortly due to the growing season. The possibilities are truly amazing.
So what can we do? Clean up is not an overnight success and it will be slow.
Although volunteers will not be handling cleanup (that is for BP’s trained, paid, contracted employees) someone needs to tell them where they have to go! That is what we can do. Be a Coast Watcher. Keep an eye on the beaches, vegetation, and wildlife. Notify the hotlines if you notice a change and contamination. Remember, if no one speaks up, help will not come. Visit volunteerfloridadisaster.org for more information and contact numbers.
Help the responding organizations by allowing them to do what they have been trained for. Many are asking for help answering phone lines.
Please do not attempt to rescue any animals affected by or clean up the oil sheen, tar balls and tar mats without proper training and safety equipment (see link to photos below). The type of oil which will reach us will be hardly flammable (should not ignite) and can be cleansed from your skin using regular soap and water. However, avoid repeated or long-term exposure to your skin. Clothing can likewise be washed using normal practices. Do not burn any contaminated items.
There will be no harmful effects from breathing the air near affected water or beaches. The chemical compounds which would affect the respiratory system are broken down shortly after the crude oil is exposed to the surface of the water and will be gone by the time it reaches us. This is the same reason the tar which reaches our beaches will not be flammable. The bad smell might turn your stomach, but it is not a health hazard. That said, young children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune or respiratory systems should avoid areas where it has been confirmed that tar has washed ashore (none at time of press).
Please do not enter into the area of restricted access put forth by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. By entering or approaching, you will not only stir the water and aid in drawing the oil slick towards our shores (it will stick to the bottom of your boat!), but you run the risk of catching or collecting fish and wildlife which could be ill from the affects of the oil on the ecosystem. Ingesting such food, even cooked, would not be wise. Visit noaa.gov and click the link for “Commercial and Recreational Fishing Closure.”
To see necessary protective clothing and measures utilized visit http://www.wwltv.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/Photos-Workers-clean-oil-off-of-birds-92526009.html
Addition contact numbers and information can be found at:
Okaloosa County Online 311: www.co.okaloosa.fl.us/index.asp
Santa Rosa County Emergency Management: www.santarosa.fl.gov/emergency/
Walton County Sheriff’s office: www.wcso.org/
Deepwater Horizon Incident Joint Information Center: (985) 902-5231; (985) 902-5240
Report oiled shoreline or request volunteer information: (866) 448-5816
Submit alternative response technology, services or products: (281) 366-5511
Submit your vessel for the Vessel of Opportunity Program: (281) 366-5511
Submit a claim for damages: (800) 440-0858
Report oiled wildlife: (866) 557-1401
My Florida: www.dep.state.fl.us/deepwaterhorizon/
*** At the time this went to press it was the most up-to-date information. The following week the Hair Booms broke into the news.