Locals train to fight oil spill

About 250 Coast boat owners and fishermen showed up at Hollywood Casino Thursday for a BP training and information session, many of them hoping to sign contracts and learn more about working for the British oil giant responsible for befouling hundreds of miles of the Gulf of Mexico.
The day before, many others had attended a similar session in Biloxi. The classes were the first step required to help in the cleanup from the mess created when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank 50 miles of Louisiana on April 22.
BP dubbed the session “Basic HSE Safety Training for Spill Response.” It dealt with safety issues, informing the boat captains what types of hazards they may see, including the presence of benzene, hazardous vapors, dust, and particulates.
Boat owners who sat through the four-hour session were to be offered work contracts, in the event oil still spewing from the rig into the Gulf should approach Mississippi marshes and shores. Those attending included people of various ages and ethnicities, including a sprinkling of Vietnamese shrimpers.
However, a sense of skepticism ran below the surface.
Hancock County fisherman Wayne Whitney said he had attended the Wednesday session in Biloxi, and BP was offering $1,500 per day for captains are selected to use their boats.
However, he believes the $25 million being funneled to the state of Mississippi by cleanup costs will be gobbled up by big out-of-state contractors, and will never find its way to the local level.
“No local people are going to make any money off this,” Whitney said.
At the sessions, boat owners also learned that BP will also provide safety equipment such as jumpsuit-type clothing, gloves, boots, safety glasses, and materials to absorb oil on decks. Jim Tsuchiya, a BP safety officer assigned as a liaison to Hancock County, said earlier Thursday that people attending the initial classes would then be required to receive further training. In addition, BP is looking for people to receive additional training in supervising hazardous materials responders.
“I’ve got to have a supervisor for every 18 to 20 cleaner-uppers,” he said.
Some were drawn to the training session more from curiosity than expectations of actually getting work.
“I don’t think anything’s going to really come of it,” said Pass Christian resident David Keith, who keeps his 50-foot lugger docked in Biloxi.
Gautier resident Phillip Pack drove all the way to Hancock County for the session. He said he hoped to work in the cleanup. But, he added, “I’m not sure how it’s going to work.”

BY: J.R. Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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