Oil on the Beach

Thousands of pieces of stinking black goo began rolling onto Hancock County beaches Tuesday, exacerbating an inflow from the British Petroleum disaster that began over the July 4th weekend.

Brian Adam, the county’s director of emergency management, said the newest infestation of tar balls numbered in the thousands. They ranged from small clumps the size of dimes and quarters to much larger, gooey blobs the size of cow droppings.

As the tide hit the shore Tuesday afternoon, water that carried the tar was a dark brown. A small, oil-covered sea bird lay dead in the sand on the beach near St. Clare Church.

Adam said some of the tar balls “are real small, but there are thousands of them.” He had rushed to the beach as soon as the oily products were spotted. “I wanted to get a look at them before the clean-up crews got there,” he said.

By about 4 p.m., at least two BP-contracted clean-up crews were combing the beaches.

At first, the tar balls were spotted from Coleman Avenue in Waveland as far south as the Silver Slipper Casino at Bayou Caddy. But Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo said more tar balls were then found back to the north in Bay St. Louis.

“It’s pretty much the whole beach. It’s a shame,” Longo said.

Meanwhile, the Bay of St. Louis remained largely unprotected from the encroachment. BP’s Magnolia Project, a plan to protect inland waterways by stringing booms across the mouth of the bay, began last Thursday but remained incomplete and in doubt on Tuesday.

Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame said he had hoped the entire project would consist of heavy ocean boom capable of standing up to waves and rough water. But the beginnings of the project at the Washington Street Pier and at Henderson Point consisted only of the smaller, 18-inch boom that failed to stop an infestation of algae north of the Bay St. Louis bridge in June.

“That first boom is completely ineffectual,” Fillingame said.

He had met with BP representatives and Raymond Butler, a BP contractor, earlier Tuesday to complain about the small boom. Fillingame said he was told it was being used at either end of the project because the water at the sides of the bay was too shallow, and the current too strong, for the larger boom to hold.

BP “had made a strategic decision to change to the 18-inch boom on the sides,” Fillingame said. Farther out in the bay, the company promises to use heavier boom of 30 and 42-inch construction, and then come back and replace the smaller boom with heavier materials, he said.

Also early this week, officials confirmed that tar balls were being found by Monday in Lake Pontchartrain, near Slidell. Tar balls were also reported to be washing ashore far to the west, at Galveston, Texas.

If there was a bright spot for the county this week, it was the arrival of four oil-skimming boats provided by the state. Two are located at Henderson Point and two are staged at Bayou Caddy.

Fillingame said it was imperative to complete the bay booming protect as soon as possible, to protect miles of inland waterways.

“This is the first phase of us getting the battle lines drawn to protect the bay,” he said.

BY: J>R> Welsh

The Sea Coast Echo

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