After persevering into a third day, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor got a commitment from the Coast Guard command Monday afternoon to deploy a specially equipped Environmental Protection Agency plane that will spot oil in the Mississippi Sound and relay coordinates for cleanup.
Taylor, D-Miss., worked through the weekend to win permission for the specially equipped plane to fly over Mississippi waters as oil from the Deepwater Horizon streamed onshore along Jackson and Harrison County beaches. Infrared equipment on the plane located masses and streams of oil in the Mississippi Sound on Monday morning and over the weekend.
Until Monday, the U.S. Coast Guard had no liaison to relay the information to Vessels of Opportunity searching Mississippi waters for oil that can be skimmed up before it reaches shore. The Coast Guard did send a liaison Monday morning to the Gulfport-Biloxi civilian airstrip to work with the EPA team and relay oil coordinates to VOO.
“My responsibility is to streamline communication between the air operation of the EPA and the Vessels of Opportunity,” said Markus Liu, Coast Guard marine science technician 2nd Class.
Taylor flew across the Mississippi Sound in the EPA plane Monday morning. The 1968 prop plane was initially used to detect airborne compounds from the oil spill, but the scientific team that staffs the operation realized infrared equipment could be used to detect oil. They just needed permission for their Mississippi mission, beyond flights to calibrate equipment.
That permission came after Taylor went on the Monday morning flight, then met in the afternoon with Gov. Haley Barbour, Coast Guard Capt. Steve Pullen of the Unified Command in Mobile, BP and state agency representatives, and others. Pullen said after the meeting that he is getting with the EPA to determine the number of hours the plane will be used in Mississippi and the pace of operations.