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BP Ramps Up Cleaning Mississippi Barrier Islands as Nesting Season Winds Down

By Rhonda Miller | Published 16 Aug 2012 06:30pm | comments
BP clean-up crew on Horn Island October 2011. (Photo by Rhonda Miller)

BP is stepping up cleaning patrols on Mississippi’s barrier islands beginning Monday.  Tar balls are still washing up from the 2010 oil spill. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports BP is working around the schedules of shore birds, turtles and bald eagles.

BP  has had to limit clean-up of tar balls on Mississippi’s barrier islands since March because of bird nesting. BP spokesman Ray Melick says some of the mainland beaches have been cleaned down to four feet deep.  But the islands come under stricter regulations because they’re part of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

"With the Park Service, we’ve been limited to cleaning of a depth of no more than six inches. So what we find, a lot of times, as storms come in, tides change, winds even shift, the sands shift and sometimes that exposes tar that was beneath six inches."

Deputy Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore Steven McCoy says the clean-up works around the delicate wildlife issues of nesting shorebirds, turtle hatchings and bald eagles.

"Something else we’ve really factored in and thought a lot of is, how can we move the clean-up efforts toward somewhat of a conclusion and not have the cumulative effects of impacting the beaches and our visitors and the wildlife year after year after year. So that’s one reason we’ve really ramped up these efforts this Fall."

BP’s Ray Melick says the clean-up in Mississippi is more than half done, with the barrier islands and some areas in Hancock County now the main areas of concentration.

But in Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu sent a letter to the Coast Guard last week asking that BP be forced to clean up submerged mats of oil.  Melick says Landrieu’s request likely applies to issues to be worked out with the state of Louisiana.

"When it comes to Mississippi, I think we’re in pretty good alignment with the Department of Environmental Quality and the Park Service of what we’re after. I think we’ve identified what's out there, and I think we’re all in a good place in terms of the level of cleaning that’s going on in the state of Mississippi."

BP is doubling the number of beach clean-up workers in Mississippi from about 150 to 300 on Monday.  Melick says BP makes it a priority to hire workers from within the state.



BP clean-up crew on Horn Island October 2011. (Photo by Rhonda Miller)



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