Oil Spill Crude Disaster

Feb 12, 2011 10:17 AM by Chris Welty

Coast Guard: Oil Cleanup Should be Scaled Back

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The cleanup of oiled beaches along the Gulf
of Mexico has reached a point where crews, heavy equipment and
thorough scrubbing can cause more damage to the ecosystem than
good, the Coast Guard said Friday.
Birds, sea turtles, fish and other species are more likely to be
harmed by an aggressive cleanup than by simply leaving remnants of
oil and letting it slowly degrade, the Coast Guard said.
The report was designed to guide the cleanup of the BP PLC spill
from the April 20 Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. There are 4,265
people still involved in the cleanup and response on 544 miles of
coast.
Recent oil samples show weathered oil found along beaches has
lost the majority of the toxic compounds in it and the oil left on
shores meets federal safety thresholds for people, the Coast Guard
said.
At least one researcher questioned the Coast Guard's report.
Wilma Subra, a Louisiana chemist and consultant for
environmental groups, said the toxic elements could last for
decades and warned the report could let BP abandon cleanup before
its complete.
"The real concern is if they walk away and it's not clean
enough," said Subra, who has been doing her own testing along the
coast. If it's not clean enough, people and animals could still be
exposed to harmful toxins, she said.
The study focused on beaches in Grand Isle, La., Petit Bois
Island, Miss., Bon Secour, Ala., and Fort Pickens, Fla.
"Beach cleanup is invasive," said Lt. Cmdr. Kenneth Boda of
the Coast Guard. "If we were to go in and remove the small bit of
oil you'd have to wash the sand, and you'd kill everything else in
there."
He said that could include removing plants, shells and other
sources of food for birds, as well as damaging sea turtle eggs.
"We can sterilize the sand, but then there aren't any nutrients
left," said Edward H. Owens, a cleanup technical adviser for BP.
"Just cleaning and sterilizing is not necessarily in the short
term of high value."
Since the spill, BP has been cleaning up oil and teams have
established guidelines to determine what is clean enough. The
cleanup varies from beach to beach. For example, recreational and
manmade beaches are getting washed and cleaned much more thoroughly
than sand abundant in wildlife and plants.
The report signaled the cleanup was nearing an end.
BP has cleanup crews on the Gulf Coast and they will stay around
to clean up when oil shows up on shores, Owens said. Oil remains
buried in sand and as submerged mats along the coast and still
washes ashore occasionally.
"We're finding in some isolated places new oil because it was
buried," Owens said. "We're getting down to a smaller length of
shoreline that has to be cleaned up and smaller amounts of oil."

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