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USM Research Examines Financial, Social and Emotional Impact of BP Oil Spill

By Rhonda Miller | Published 02 Oct 2011 10:24pm | comments
University of Southern Mississippi students Jerrell Brim, left, and Shelbi Lewis, conduct a survey about the impact of the BP oil spill with Arnell Miller, right, of Ocean Springs.

The string of disasters that has slammed the Mississippi Gulf Coast makes it good territory for research on how families deal with trying times. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports on a door-to-door survey conducted Saturday.

"How are you doin’, ma’am. We’re a couple of students with the University of Southern Mississippi and we’re conducting a research study on the oil spill and how it affected your life," says Jerrell Brim on a front porch in Ocean Springs. It’s one of 260 homes visited in the second annual survey of how the BP oil spill is impacting families financially, emotionally and socially.  

"Have you or your family members experienced any of the physical symptoms since the oil spill? Headache?" "No."  Student Shelbi Lewis is the other half of the survey team. "Respiratory congestion?"  "No."  "Drowsiness?" "No."

 Eighty-two-year-old Arnell Miller answers ’no’ to nearly all of the questions.

"In this oil spill thing, you know, I’m not a working person, I’m a Social Security person. So I wasn’t on a job or anything like that, so it didn’t affect me, not really, directly," Miller says.

That's the response from the majority of residents who took the same survey last year, according to University of Southern Mississippi Assistant Professor Tom Osowski.

"The BP oil spill didn’t impact everybody on the coast. It impacted a small number of people. And for those small numbers of people, yes, it had a major impact. And because of the major impact, it then impacts things such as social functioning, financial functioning, relationships," Osowski says.

Even though he may not have been part of this survey, 38-year-old Charles Taylor of Bay Saint Louis told Coast Guard leaders in September, just living near the oil spill has been disastrous.

"I’ve been sick from this oil, or the dispersant, of the combination thereof, since last summer," Taylor said.

Taylor had been working for the same refrigeration service company for 10 years, until he took so many sick days, he lost his job.

The survey for the university’s School of Social Work includes residents of Jackson, Harrison and Hancock Counties. The results will be published in the Spring and will be used to train social workers who respond to disasters.

Images

University of Southern Mississippi students Jerrell Brim, left, and Shelbi Lewis, conduct a survey about the impact of the BP oil spill with Arnell Miller, right, of Ocean Springs.


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