Oil and Dispersant Leave Trail of Lawsuits and Questions on Mississippi Gulf CoastBy Rhonda Miller | Published 17 Jul 2011 10:48pm |
It’s been a more than a year since two unwelcome guests invaded the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, oil and dispersant refuse to pack up their troubles and leave town.
At a program in Baton Rouge over the weekend to look at the long-term impact of the oil spill, environmental scientist Ed Overton said people are exposed to many of the chemicals in dispersant and oil every day, like breathing in vapors when they fill up their gas tank. For most people, it’s not a problem, but the uncertainty comes with the high levels of exposure during the oil spill.
"Breathing these vapors is not something you should usually do. And certainly some of the clean-up workers were exposed to unusual levels," Overton said. "Now, what are the health effects of these? We won’t know for years to come."
While the environmental, financial and health impacts of the oil spill continue to unfold, so does the legal action. Jeffrey Breit is one of 17 attorneys representing people who filed 150,000 lawsuits against BP. Breit said health issues related to the dispersant make up a substantial number of the lawsuits.
"There are hundreds of them. I can’t tell you if it reaches the thousands, but I know there are many many hundreds and they will probably start, in my guestimation, in August or September of 2012," Breit said.
While business and health issues drag on, the fishing industry has been especially hard hit. Byron Encalade represents the Louisiana Oystermen’s Association and said Mississippi is pretty much in the same boat.
"Our reefs are depleted," Encalade said. "Our oyster situation, we’re not seeing the reproduction, there’s no little oysters out there, so you know we’re looking at years to recover."
While tourism is bouncing back, many on the ground, and on the water, say it's going to be a long time until Mississippi recovers from problems that washed ashore with the oil and the dispersant.
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